The state of education in Rochester has been elevated from urgent care to critical, said Pastor Shirley Billups-Bell of United Church Ministry at a press conference earlier today. Billups-Bell was joined by several of the city’s African-American
PHOTO BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO
Pastor Shirley Billups-Bell (center) with her supporters at a press conference this morning.
religious leaders who say that the faith community is going to become more involved in the Rochester City School District’s efforts to improve student achievement.
It was the second such announcement by a group of African-American clergy in a week.
“The system to educate our children is broken,” Billups-Bell said. She referred to the low student performance in the city’s schools as educational genocide.
Billups-Bell said the religious community has to empower parents.
“Parents are the stakeholders and we are here to help them,” she said. “We’re not here to blame anyone, not the teachers or the district. But we have to go to parents and let them know that none of these jobs would be here if it weren't for their kids.”
But drawing from her own experience working with the district, Billups-Bell said that the district needs greater oversight on issues like chronic truancy. Going out into neighborhoods and dragging truant students to school doesn’t work, she said.
“Why isn’t the child coming to school? That’s what we need to know first,” Billups-Bell said. School and neighborhood safety, nutritious meals, and better parenting are areas where the clergy can help, she said.
Pastor Cynthia Anderson with the Faith Bible Tabernacle Center said that Rochester parents must become more actively involved in their children’s education, if the district is ever going to be successful. Even though many city parents work long hours and money is scarce, there are plenty of ways parents can instill the importance of education, Anderson said.