Last month was a whirlwind for the Alliance, with so much happening in the network, in our community, and in our country. It’s hard to know where to begin and how to focus, and we certainly can’t fit it all in these few paragraphs here. But we can start where we always must…with our children!
In early May, Rochester found itself again making national news for the wrong thing. That this happened during Teacher Appreciation Week makes it all the more disheartening. A School of the Arts teacher was accused of having students pick cotton for a lesson on slavery! We stand by and applaud the swift actions and support that RCSD has taken to assist SOTA scholars and their families by placing the teacher on administrative leave, and those of the School Board to initiate the 3020 – a process to formally discipline, and ultimately remove, said teacher.
But then, we closed the month with yet another incident at another school, where not one, but a group of teachers shared disparaging, unrepeatable and RACIST remarks about our scholars and their families. Let’s be perfectly clear – adults who do not understand and love our children should not be teaching them or anywhere near them. They cause too much harm! Again, we applaud the Superintendent for swift action, and stand in support of whatever they must do to remove harmful teachers from their ranks.
Teachers spend an enormous amount of time preparing lesson plans and developing learning experiences that support the academic and healthy development of their students. The best teachers serve student scholars by understanding who they are, building trusting relationships, and investing in their learning to build and support their humanity. They are thoughtful, reflective, and accountable, and there are many within RCSD who regularly meet and exceed this standard.
Still, two separate incidents at two separate schools (one elementary and one secondary) suggests we may need to look more closely at the extent of the issue. Are these isolated incidents, or is there more of a systemic issue as play? If so, we will need to do more than just remove bad teachers. But even so, we must still send a clear message that substandard teaching and racist activities disguised as teaching will no longer be tolerated and should be nowhere near a classroom.
But how and where would we start? Here are some things we think could help to start…
- Let’s educate families and the community about NYSED policies and practices that allow the application of teacher discipline, such as Section 3020-a of the NYS Education Law, regarding the Teacher Discipline Process, and the Moral Character Actions (Part 83).
- We can share information with parents and the broader community on appropriate teacher practice, cultural responsiveness, and teacher diversity efforts, as well as teacher discipline standards, including policies that impede swift and consistent action.
- We can engage policy makers and our state delegation to meet with parents and family members on these policies, and to hear firsthand perspectives from students and families on this issue.
- We will develop one-pagers to report on and share data on teacher recruitment and diversity efforts, of our partners (RCSD, charters and higher education)! Also, teacher discipline! We can share those on our website, on social media and with our extensive partnership.
- We must support the activation of PECAN, our parent leadership team, to work with other parent leadership groups to amplify and bring additional attention to teacher practice improvement.
We are committed to supporting RCSD in doing what is its most critical role, providing high quality teaching for our children. But this is not just RCSD’s job alone – we have the collective power to increase understanding within the community to hold and create change.
We are all in this TOGETHER…For the Children!