Mayoral control of schools decried

ROCHESTER — A majority of speakers opposed mayoral control of schools during a more than two-hour hearing on the issue held March 9 by the city school district’s board of education.

Mayor Robert Duffy first announced his intention to seek governance of the school district during his inauguration speech on Jan. 1. Several community members mentioned that they would like to see his plan, as one has not been released.

The hearing came on the heels of the state education department’s release of high-school graduation rates. Rochester dropped six points to a 46-percent graduation rate in 2009, although the number of students earning a Regents diploma increased by 100 students.

"We have not been doing a good enough job of preparing our students for the more rigorous Regents diploma requirements we knew were coming," Superintendent of Schools Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement. "Through the reform efforts outlined in our Strategic Plan, including the transformation of our high schools, I am confident we will meet the higher standards and better prepare our students for post-secondary work."

While many who spoke during the hearing acknowledged the struggles the district faces, they that said mayoral control is not the answer. More than 70 people attended the hearing.

"You just having this (hearing), listening to me; that’s why this process … should stay in place," said parent Ricardo Adams. "If it changes to mayoral control, we’re not going to be talking to the people making the decisions."

He added that Mayor Duffy should focus on addressing the poverty that creates unstable home situations for many students.

"This is a democracy," he said. "And (the mayor) has given no evidence that he’s going to change things for the better. To do something drastic does not mean you’re going to have positive results."

Juan Padilla, whose children graduated from city schools, said that the motivation behind the mayor’s move to control the schools seems to have little to do with teaching and learning and much to do with obtaining more power.

"Many case studies demonstrate that a system of mayoral control is not an appropriate structure, particularly in cities with significant concentrations of minority students and poor people," he said. "Often, they are more excluded from having a strong voice and influencing the decision-making process than others."

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