No Time to Wait for Superman

When you become President of the Rochester Board of Education they give you an office.  It's nothing fancy but it serves a very useful purpose. In that office  I meet with folks from throughout this community to discuss their fears and frustrations, concerns and challenges.

In that office, I've got a 31” inch plastic figurine of Superman. There’s a yellow  “Post It” note that I've put on his chest which reads “NO TIME TO WAIT FOR SUPERMAN!!” Invariably when people come into my office, we talk about what that  sticky note means.

Most folks get it right away. They understand that our District’s future or fate is not tied to one person - no one board member, not even the superintendent or Superman - can do what and entire community can do together. No one understands that concept better than our present Superintendent  Dr. Bolgen Vargas who, to his credit, was always the first to discuss the importance of broad based community engagement when addressing our community's most difficult challenges.

The present Board of Education has been a champion of this approach as well.  Our efforts at building collaborative partnerships have resulted in unprecedented community based efforts at East and Edison High Schools.  Our participation in quarterly meetings with the County and the City has created a permanent venue to dialogue with our peers on everything from free City-wide WIFI to the creation of a shared human service database. The Board's  creation of a Youth Instructional Improvement Council and Office of Social Justice have both served as a springboard for conversations regarding how we can improve our academic offerings so as to make RCSD classes more effective and engaging.

In most instances community members and volunteers are either behind or are out in front leading these efforts.  If these efforts are to be successful and sustainable that's how it must be. Indeed, as this page has pointed out, research from the Brookings Institute has shown that on their own, superintendents, have very little impact on student outcomes.

By contrast, research by the University of Chicago indicates that parent and community partnerships are an absolute essential element to any successful effort to promote student achievement and to transform a struggling school district.  

Indeed, the community is where this Board of Education will be looking for partners in our effort to transform our district.  These folks will be the real heroes when our story gets told at graduation ceremonies in June of 2016 and beyond. And while these heroes don't wear capes or fancy uniforms, they are people who you would recognize for what they do not what they wear.  

Our heroes are our parents and principals;     cafeteria ladies and custodians; sentries and social workers; college presidents and neighborhood preachers.  Their collaborative work allows our students to soar, like Superman, far above the challenges and hurdles which are put in their way.