Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Displacement of School #1 Children in Rochester:  A Parent’s Story
By: Walida Monroe-Sims

Back in June 2016, a teacher of #1 school in Rochester, NY  saw an article in the newspaper regarding the school's displacement. There was no communication with staff, principal, parents or students.  Soon after Michael Schimtz, the director of Facilities, Operations, and Maintenance, came to school #1 to explain what was going on.  He shared the "Master Plan" and advised parents to go to the next school board meeting.  He answered questions from parents and staff, and also shared that the school board was waiting on a decision from legislative to move forward.  The bill to renovate was passed 3 days later.

Parents, teachers, students and staff went to the school board meeting to express their concerns.  There was word that the school board met with #15 prior to school #1 families.  Mr. Schmidt did state during the June meeting that the decision to bring School 15 was approved at a board meeting in March. The only decision that was left to be made was if school 1 students would be phased into other schools being that there was no identified location for the school to be housed.  After the board meeting parents were interviewed and our interview was aired on the 6 o'clock news. 

Here is my statement for the Board: My purpose for addressing the school board is to express my concern regarding the displacement of school #1.  As a parent of four children; 3 of which graduated from #1 school and 1 child still currently attending; I am quite disappointed that the parents of # 1 school students were not informed of the changes that will be occurring.  I feel that our right to advocate for our children was taken away; and has now caused my trust in the city school district board to decline. We see the School Board when it is time for election; however there has been no communication once in office.  #1 school has provided a secure foundation for our children; and has prepared them for life. Teaching them to be well rounded, non-judgmental, accountable, studious, reliable and resilient.  The School Board has not taken into consideration how the displacement will affect our children, parents and staff.  School #1 provides a safe learning environment for all their students which include children with social emotional challenges, children that are deaf, and children who are autistic. Up routing children without taking their needs into consideration will cause their learning process to decline; this displacement plan will definitely interfere with their learning process and education growth.

My son was diagnosed with ADHD at 6 years old during this time he was in the 1st grade and attending #1 school.  It was very challenging for him and myself ,as he was having difficulty transitioning, focusing, and positively expressing himself; which in turn  caused him to display behaviors; however school #1 staff never gave up on my son and displayed a strong interest and concern for my son’s wellbeing and education. Upon graduation Principal Dr. Harris worked above and beyond making sure I placed my son in a learning environment that would secure is success and meets him where he was at; as school #1 did.  Today, my son is in the 8th grade at Leadership Academy for Young Men, and an “A” student with no referrals to the principal.   I also have a 21 year old daughter who graduated from School #1 who is in school studying Child Psychology along with providing services for special needs children and adults.  School #1  has also open doors for my 16 year old daughter who is currently a Junior at SOTA majoring in Creative Arts.   Also, I currently have a 4th grader at #1 School who does not understand why he has to move out of his school.  He currently has an “A” average since kindergarten; my fear is this transition will affect his social emotional process and educational process.

Today, I ask that you take the feelings and lives of our children; the students at #1 into consideration; understanding that transition, lack of communication and PARENT involvement will interfere with our participation in “The Master Plan” and that they to matter.  Eviction is not the answer for us.  Our School #1 family deserves better.

Results from the Board Meeting held on August 17th -  Van White stated he was being very honest and the school board has not made a decision despite what Mike Schimtz told us back in June 2016.   He also apologized for the lack of communication which has caused many parents to lose trust in the school board.   Many parents and teachers addressed the board and were very passionate about their advocacy. Also were invited to an open public meeting on September 6, 2016 regarding School #1 renovation and plan.  It will be held at central office at 6pm. The next school board meeting is September 22, 2016 at 6pm.  

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