Last week’s revelation that the Rochester Business Alliance was to initiate a widespread television, billboard and poster advertising campaign to encourage city of Rochester parents to get out and vote in the November 8 general election, has elicited considerable community skepticism. The “Vote, Be Heard” ad campaign is primarily intended to generate increased voter registration and hence, a larger turnout at the polls to vote in the Rochester City School District school board general election race.
With the city administration’s full support, the RBA, along with its partner in this particular endeavor, the Rochester Faith Alliance, is basically attempting to stir up more than just greater numbers of registered voters to participate in the November general election. RBA Chief Executive Sandy Parker has made no secret of her contempt for the existing school board, believing it has mishandled a number of different issues, specifically the supposedly “forced” departure of former superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard.
RCSD Mayoral Control Issue On The RBA Table
Although there are no official endorsements emanating from the RBA offices on State Street in downtown, the general feeling is that the RBA and other like-minded entities will advocate for any and all current and future board members that favor mayoral control of the RCSD. The local business community has made no bones about its desire to see the reins of the RCSD handed over to the mayor’s office, with the wholehearted belief that the overall performance of city schools will dramatically improve once the school board is pushed out of the way.
Never mind the volumes of scientific data that indicate mayoral control of school districts has no long-term discernible effect on performance. What this really comes down to is that some influential people in Rochester are gravely concerned about how the outside world perceives the city of Rochester and its long-standing failures, specifically concerning its school district.
RCSD Attendance Figures Alarming
It has come to the attention of Rochesterians that absenteeism figures regarding the RCSD are alarmingly high still, considering it’s the end of September. Roughly 700 city school students are still unaccounted for, as per a report in the Democrat & Chronicle on September 28. To echo interim superintendent Bolgen Vargas and many others locally, that is unacceptable and highly deserving of the community’s attention. Attendance figures have historically been poor relating to the RCSD and it appears that recent efforts by Central Office and local education reform groups to locate “lost” students and inspire increased school participation have only gone so far.
As much as I suspect the RBA and affiliates are currently seeking to spin this latest RCSD development in order to serve, in my view, their equivocally self-aggrandizing agenda. However, where they could ultimately make a much greater impact, and do a whole lot more good, is by teaming with the RCSD and various support groups that would surely embolden community efforts to raise school attendance figures.
School Issues Start At Home
I believe we can all agree that it is of the utmost importance that all of our children attend school. Imploring more parents to register to vote and to further engage in the political process doesn’t mean a thing if these same people cannot (or will not) ensure their children’s attendance at school. The fact of the matter is that our issues, particularly concerning our schools (and not just in urban centers), begin at home or in the neighborhoods. Ultimately it doesn’t matter which individuals sit on the school board, or if there even is a board. The number one issue affecting the RCSD and all other schools across the country is what transpires at home, behind closed doors (or sometimes right out in the open).
If the RBA and the faith alliance were truly concerned about city school kids, they would retool their public service campaign with a keen eye toward engaging more city residents to be more involved in their children’s lives. What this misguided advertising campaign is essentially doing is further polarizing an already fractious city, which is the last thing we all need at this point in time.
Lankes, T. (2011). City school attendance concerns Bolgen Vargas. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
Rochester Business Alliance (2011). “Vote, Be Heard”
Thomas, L.F. (2011). Education Accountability For Rochester Schools.
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