LONSBERRY: Time To Take Over The Rochester City School District


The state or a court must take over the Rochester City School District.

            Its years of incompetent leadership, under a succession of boards and superintendents, has climaxed in the current debacle, in which – the day before school was scheduled to open – there is no certain answer about who will be attending when, or where, or how they will get there.

               It is an absolute collapse of function stemming completely from a chronic failure of capability. They are just too dumb, lazy and self-serving for the job.

               And the damage they do is intolerable. It is a crime against the children of Rochester and their futures. For too many years – for too many decades – poor kids in a decaying city have been ground to powder by a malfeasant school district. Society can simply not tolerate this cruel injustice any longer.

               Every remediation has been tried. A state monitor was appointed, new board members were elected, a succession of superintendents have churned through, mayor after mayor has decried the situation, reform after reform has been tried, great quests for racial justice – one after the other – have been launched, and nothing has worked. The district has failed its students academically, and proven incapable of maintaining the most basic of management functions.

               All while paying board members and superintendents – and armies of Central Office administrators – some of the highest wages in the state, even while many of them spent the last year working from home or out of the area or state.

               Each new district failure is blamed on poverty and racism, and met with tired clichés and more appeals for state money. It is a dishonest string of excuses that drags on year after year, administration after administration.

               And it must end.

               It’s time to take the car keys away.

               It’s time to put a grown up in charge.

               Not some out-of-area product of the education industry, but a local leader of demonstrated capability. Someone who knows the players, can deal with unions, understands how government works, has run something big before, and who is established and secure enough to kick ass and hurt feelings.

               Possible names for consideration would be former mayor, police chief and lieutenant governor Bob Duffy; former county executive and clerk Cheryl Dinolfo; and former Irondequoit supervisor Dave Seeley. Each is capable, each is sufficiently self-confident, each is fundamentally local, and each is currently underutilized.

               Possibly there are others, but these three are obvious, and any of the three could get the job done.

               And the job must get done.

               Every day spent dithering by the dunces atop the Rochester City School District is another day of uncertainty for young people who have already been dealt a tough hand by life and society. They ought to be getting more at school, not less. And yet – in spite of a never-ending flow of money – what they get from their school district is disservice.

               As this year’s fumbled beginning proves again.

               When you have to call the superintendent and her senior staff back from vacation to address a cascading series of school-closing issues in the days before the new year begins, you don’t have a school district, you have a clown circus.

               And it’s time to put an end to it.

               It seems that the governor – or a judge, in response to a suit – can order a decapitation of the district. A 2015 state law allows for districts to be taken over. Perhaps none has ever needed to be taken over as badly as this one, or needed to be taken over as completely as this one.

               The Rochester City School District has had 30 years of second chances. Along the way, it has destroyed the lives of many tens of thousands of students, handicapping their families and communities for generations to come. That is a moral crime that cannot be suffered any longer.

               This isn’t a school district, it’s a con. A scheme to defraud the taxpayers of their money and the students of their futures. And it must be brought to a crashing halt.

               School was scheduled to start tomorrow, but not a single parent or child knows if it will or how it will. That wouldn’t be tolerated at any other school district in the region, and it can’t be tolerated here.

               It’s time to take action.

               The governor needs to take this district over.

               And she needs to put a veteran local leader in charge of beating it into shape.


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