The Rochester City School Board meeting at East High School erupted into chaos last Thursday, as protestors disrupted the proceedings, turning the event into what looked like a battlefield. Among the protestors was community activist Howard Eagle, who seized the opportunity to express his concerns about the removal of Black members from the Racial Equity Advocacy Leadership (R.E.A.L) Team and accused Superintendent Carmine Peluso of racism.
The monthly school board meeting did not go as planned. The district is currently facing growing criticism for a reconfiguration plan that could potentially close several public schools. Frustrated staff, parents, and community members attended the meeting to voice their concerns. Each speaker was granted three minutes at the podium to share their thoughts with the board. However, the situation quickly spiraled out of control when Howard Eagle refused to adhere to the designated speaking time and launched accusations of racism against Superintendent Peluso.
According to the Rochester City School's website, the R.E.A.L Team's vision is for the district to be a thoroughly anti-racist institution that ensures equitable opportunities for all. The group is “working toward ensuring that adults will unlearn racist attitudes, belief systems, and behavioral practices to cultivate equitable and positive relationships. School community members will learn how to think critically about racism and take responsibility by reflecting upon their behavior and making amends.”
However, Eagle claims Peluso and his “agent” are not standing by the vision of the R.E.A.L Team. Eagle says Peluso was responsible for removing Black members, particularly Black women, from the R.E.A.L Team. He further alleged that no white members were removed, but more were added.
Eagle believes that this decision to remove Black people from the group was racially motivated. To support his claims, he presented over 120 signatures from local citizens who shared his sentiment. Eagle demanded that Peluso reinstate him and the others to the R.E.A.L Team. He raised concerns about the superintendent's commitment to diversity and inclusivity, as the R.E.A.L Team is tasked with addressing racial disparities and promoting equity within the school district.
The incident sparked a heated exchange between Eagle and the board president, Cynthia Elliott. Elliott threatened to turn off the microphone. Nevertheless, Eagle continued to speak about his frustrations with the superintendent and the decisions being made.
The back and forth became so intense that the meeting was suspended and board members left the room.
Minutes later the board returned to the meeting room in an attempt to restart the meeting. But, the chaos was still brewing as others joined in the confusion. Elliott requested security to remove anyone responsible for disrupting the meeting. As attendees once again attempted to voice their opinions, the intense exchange between Eagle and Elliott continued. At that point, the meeting was suspended and then began again for the third time.
Rochester Board of Education meetings are open to the public and held monthly on Tuesdays and Thursdays (6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month).
To address the board, call the Board of Education office at (585) 262-8525 or email: email@example.com by noon on the day of the meeting at which you wish to speak.
Watch the official video from the RCSD Facebook page here: https://fb.watch/nqTDcBh9WJ/