RCSD Parent Advisory Council

Rochester City School District Parent Advisory Council Chair Ericka Simmons and Vice Chair Makita Saloane discuss the importance of parent involvement in school district decisions. They also discuss the difficulties of being partners at the decision-making table with elected and appointed school leaders. (Taped July 2016)

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John Bliss 4

John Bliss is a long-time educator in both public and charter schools. He is the founder of Urban Choice Charter Charter School and currently teaches 6th grade in the Rochester City School District. In this episode, John focuses on the rigid patterns public schools have fallen into which can only produce more of the same failing results. He champions a reorganization of city schools spearheaded by “outsider” stakeholders who are not tied to policies and practices that perpetuate themselves but do not move the needle on student gains. He also calls for more respect and support for classroom teachers with the following quote: “Teachers should be the rock stars, not the roadies.”

Great Schools for All (GS4A) part 2


Recorded July 2015. Great Schools for All (GS4A) is a volunteer coalition whose goal is to reduce the concentration of poverty in the schools of the city of Rochester NY. Co-conveners Lynette Sparks and John Wilkinson discuss the results of the November 2014 and May 2015 conferences. Also featured are interviews with the following: Jeff Crane, superintendent of the West Irondequoit School District and co-convener of the Urban Suburban program sub-group; Dan Delahanty, teacher at East High School and co-convener of the Magnet School sub-group; and Mark Hare, retired journalist and co-convener of the Legislative sub-group.

CORRECTION: Video identifies Jeff Crane as Superintendent of East Irondequoit School District. He is Superintendent of the West Irondequoit School District.

Great Schools for All (GS4A) part 1


Recorded July 2015. Great Schools for All (GS4A) is a coalition based in Rochester NY. Its goal is to address concentrated poverty in this city. Interviewed are co-conveners Lynette Sparks and John Wilkinson. Of special interest is a chart which appears at 5:11 of the interview that tracks the correlation between test scores and poverty levels in Rochester and Monroe County. The book ‘Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There are No Bad Schools in Raleigh’ by Gerald Grant is discussed. Possible solutions are presented

Rochester NY journalists discuss city schools


Recorded August 2015. Tim Macaluso, education writer for the Rochester NY City Newspaper, and Justin Murphy, education writer for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, discuss issues related to the Rochester City School District. Topics covered: conflict between superintendent Bolgen Vargas and the administrators union; relationship between teachers, administrators and the superintendent; teacher tenure/teacher evaluation; what is the function of the school board and the function of the superintendent?; Board President Van Henri White.

John Bliss, education activist part 3


Recorded April 2015. John Bliss, longtime teacher at both public and charter schools, presents a model for a new school that will work in urban areas. Beginning with a three tiered model for instruction that begins with a consideration of a child’s physical and emotional needs, he also examines what the district must do and what school staff must do.

John Bliss, educational activist part 2


Recorded March 2015. John Bliss, education activist, is a long time teacher in public and charter schools. He is the founder of Urban Choice Charter School. In this episode, he discusses “Fostering Resiliency in Kids” by Bonnie Bedard. John’s basic premise is that the cures for most kids are going to come from the people closest to them – the teachers and staff in individual schools. He calls for more autonomy in buildings. He points out that the most successful schools in Rochester – School of Inquiry, School of the Arts, The Children’s School and the Early College School – have several elements in common: strong leadership, strong parent groups, smaller size, a focus on reading and writing, and better relationships among staff. He presents approaches to remedy what he sees as a dysfunctional hierarchy at the district level.