Focus needed on black and Latino males


The Rochester school board frequently finds itself at odds with public opinion over how much supervision superintendents need. Too much, and board members are accused of meddling and micromanaging. Too little, and the public directs its anger at the board when things go wrong.

Board member Van White says he is not willing to err on the latter. He was extremely frustrated by a recent report that says that only 9 percent of Rochester’s black males graduate in four years, the lowest rate of any urban district in the country.

The report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, which paints an equally grim picture for Latino males, should be sounding alarm bells, White said in a phone interview yesterday. And he said he will be urging board members to direct Superintendent Bolgen Vargas to develop a short-term strategy to begin addressing the problem at tonight’s monthly board meeting.

The meeting is at the district’s central office at 131 West Broad Street, at 6:30 p.m.
“This is a state of emergency,” White said, and he is troubled by the district’s lack of responsiveness to such damaging news. Earlier this week, Superintendent Vargas said that he had not thoroughly read the Schott report (which is 50 pages long) and that its data does not match the district’s.

In a letter sent to board members, White said, “We must offer up a plan which effectively communicates our understanding that we are confronted with a crisis. Additionally, and more importantly, such a plan must more clearly define our specific programmatic priorities and the time frames we expect to carry them out.”
The Schott Report was released the same week that a US Census report showed that Rochester’s child poverty rate has risen from 11th to the 7th highest in the country. Roughly 54 percent of city children under age 18, according to the US Census, live in poverty.