LONSBERRY: State Should Take Over Rochester Schools

The Rochester City School District must report by the end of the week how it intends to turn itself around.

               Repeatedly warned by the state Education Department about its chronic failure, the district has been put on notice – again. It must develop a plan to implement common educational practices and controls, or face a takeover by the state.

               It has until Friday to report. No one knows what it will say.

               But I have an idea.

The district will offer meaningless and self-aggrandizing bull crap. It will repeat vapid clichés and throw in some garnish about poverty and race, with repeated references to children and the future and community and any number of other moronic talking points.

In short, it will do what it always does.

And what it always does is fail.

And what the state should do is shut it down.

Dissolve the school board, purge central office, fire the top third of administrators, bring in out-of-town bosses. And pray like hell.

And expect opposition.

The union will drag its feet, and hundreds of incompetent principals and teachers will block the way.

It will be hard, but it will be essential.

This district’s failure is a decades-long moral crime against the fates and families of the children whose educations are entrusted to it. The district itself is the enemy in the war to build a prosperous future for the rising generation of Rochesterians.

Rochester does not have bad education because it is poor, Rochester is poor because it has bad education.

A fish rots from the head down – and nowhere is that truer than in the Rochester City School District. Drawn by vanity and the biggest school-board paycheck in the state, successive iterations of the Rochester board of education have been absolute failures. It is an embarrassing collection of some of the least functional people in the city, all believing they are God’s gift to education, swirling ever downward in a toxic mix of ignorance and arrogance.

Lots of racial narrative, not so much math and reading.

It boils down to this: Stupid board members hire stupid superintendents who hire stupid administrators who implement stupid policies which destroy the futures of innocent young people.

And the resultant educational failure is used as a pretext to demand more of the same – more money, more stupid programs, incessant turnover, more inane speeches by school board members who can string words but not thoughts together.

So get rid of the school board and let the state takeover.

As a measure of how bad things are, please know that I don’t trust the state further than I can throw it, and that almost everything that comes out of Albany is poison. But even that is better than this. And the education commissioner and her distinguished educator are both grownups, who’ve actually been successful in their educational careers, and aren’t looking to stuff their pockets and get jobs for their pals.

So cut loose the locals, and bring in the state.

And don’t be tempted to turn it over to City Hall. The cronyism runs deep there, and the school district can’t be turned into another patronage opportunity for the mayor’s relatives and friends. And with federal investigations still considering City Hall shenanigans in regard to the Rochester Housing Authority and the big school renovations, it’s a good idea to leave your valuables in the hotel safe.

Yes, Rochester is one of the poorest and most dysfunctional cities in America – any number of studies and statistics demonstrate that. But the difficult – and essential – work of urban education is going forward elsewhere in the country under similar circumstances. Other communities face family dissolution and poverty and racism and every other obstacle and excuse, and those communities do better by their children. They educate more and better, giving their children a chance.

Rochester gives far too many of its students no such chance.

               And that is a crime.

               And its perpetrators must be punished.

               Its children must be saved.

               The state must take over. Flush the school board and central office, take firm control of the schools, set high standards for teachers and students.

The Rochester City School District has been a gravy train for adults for too long, it must be turned into a freedom train for students. It’s not about ridiculously big paychecks for prattling adults, it’s about opening doors of ability for struggling students.

All that matters is the kids, and anything standing in the way of their future must be crushed or pushed aside.

And that starts at the top.

The report is due Friday. The state should take over Monday.

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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