A recent Minority Reporter article discusses the proposed 'RCSD School Reconfiguration Plan'. The article outlines the beliefs, thoughts and ideas of the Rochester City School District (RCSD) Superintendent, Rochester Board of Education President, and Rochester Teachers Association (RTA) President.
As usual, parents and the broader community were not included in the planning phases, and only get to react to that which has already been developed, and will probably be embraced—in totality, with just a couple of possible exceptions—by the majority of the Board of Education next month, when they are scheduled to vote on the proposal.
Union President Adam Urbanski has already signaled that resistance will be forthcoming on the part of RTA members regarding closings slated for school #2 and #10. Speaking on Evan Dawson's Connection's radio program on WXXI recently, Urbanski noted that teachers at both schools are organizing resistance to closures, and that the Union is planning to back them. So, stay tuned for fireworks, more than likely during the upcoming September 28th Board of Education Business meeting.
I guarantee that one of the biggest, most fundamental and problematic flaws in this proposal is the idea that (according to Superintendent Peluso) "This reconfiguration will also allow for the allocation of resources and facilities more efficiently, ensuring that students have access to high-quality opportunities."
Please notice that this particular aspect of the proposal is barely being discussed. No one is saying (specifically) how rearranging grade levels will automatically and/or necessarily lead to "high-quality [TEACHING AND LEARNING] opportunities," especially since the plan includes developing High Schools (9 -12) that have populations of "approximately 1,000 students," which means the number could possibly be higher than 1,000, and Middle Schools (7- 8) that have populations of "approximately 600 students," which means the number could possibly be higher than 600. These numbers are counter, nearly diametrically opposite of research findings regarding effective school size, especially and particularly within extraordinarily challenging school districts, such as one of New York State's and the United States' worst districts, the Rochester City School District.
The community should be reminded that the configurations that are being proposed are not really new. We have had the exact same configurations in the past (most recently during the 1980's and 90's, into the early 2000's). In numerous cases, under those configurations, schools were chaotic, especially large High schools such as John Marshall and Benjamin Franklin, which is part of the reason why both were reconfigured several times, as was Frederick Douglass, and of course the old East High School. So, we've been there before (in fact, more than once).
Superintendent Peluso is talking in very general terms about the reconfiguration plan resulting in more certified teachers in classrooms, which of course is desirable, but as Board President Cynthia Elliott reminded him during a recent appearance that the two of them also had on Dawson's Connections radio program, being certified does not necessarily and/or automatically guarantee that an educator is "qualified".
So, if some educators are not qualified—and that certainly seems to be the implication—then what is to be done about that? This is not a rhetorical question. Students, families, and the general public deserve an answer.
~ Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport for 20 years, before retiring in 2020.