Editor’s note: Crises often bring good people together. We may not always agree on every issue or priority, but when it comes to providing for what all kids need and protecting public education, teachers, unionists AND administrators are almost always on the same side. Last Thursday’s education forum in Fairport, which drew several thousand pro-public education activists, was a prime example of that sort of cooperation and solidarity. The impressive — and inspirational — showing in Fairport brought forth the following eloquent note of appreciation from Superintendent William Cala:
If there is any one event that should give us hope it was last night’s rally at Minerva (high school). A sincere thank you to all for braving the cold, bringing your energy and raising your voices in solidarity. How very special and poignant to see John Baynes (president of the Fairport Educators’ Association), Dave Dunn (Fairport principal) and Rosemary Rivera from the Alliance for Quality Education raising their voices, lifting our hearts in unity for our kids, our public schools and our profession.
In 2005, I read an inspiring book about what schools should really look like from the students’ perspective. The book is “The Big Picture” by Dennis Littky. I won’t go into the details of the book, but it is as relevant today as it was a decade ago. I was so moved by the constructivist concepts in Littky’s book that I had this brainstorm to go to the sociology class at FHS taught by Jim Nowak and ask that the entire class read the book and then we would have discussions on what a school should look like. As it turns out ,this project grew into something much bigger. All of the administrators and every board member read the book along with the students. We met weekly to discuss each chapter. Groups were led by the students. Towards the end of this project, Jim hung a sign up in the classroom that asked: “What’s Next Bill?” A very simple by very important question. The point here is this: What happens after talk? All too often, events such as the glorious one we experienced last night end and that’s literally the end. That “What’s Next Bill?” sign is always on my mind whenever I look for something important to happen or change. Our “What’s Next” in 2005 was to put together a list of actionable items that would make our schools more inviting, engaging and caring. I have used this list in many talks and presentations over the years. It is very powerful.
As we bask in the warmth of last evening, knowing that we have joined hearts and hands (I do love that phrase!) with over 40 other schools from Monroe County and beyond, it is important to ask the question, “What’s Next?” The rally was an awesome beginning to what will hopefully become a movement.
“I prayed for freedom for 20 years without an answer until I began praying with my legs.”
This Frederick Douglass quote that I shared last night was brought to mind as you, along with more than 2,000 child advocates “prayed with your legs.” Along with our voices raised loud and clear, our actions over the next weeks and months are sure to make a difference. There can be silence no more.
Throughout history there have been horrific acts perpetrated by incredibly self-serving and self-aggrandizing people who have been inebriated on power, control and money. The damage to humble citizens and children of the world has been incalculable. What is happening right now in our country and state as the 1 percent seeks power and control over the daily existence of the lives of the people that make up the essence of our democracy through the destruction of the bedrock of our country, public education, is no less horrific.
SILENCE NO MORE
“Silence in the face of evil is itself Evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” — Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Thank you so much for raising your voices, praying with your legs and acting with love for our children, our public schools, our profession and our community.
(Cala will be the keynote speaker at Thursday’s education forum, sponsored by the Rochester Teachers Association. The program, at Temple B’rith Kodesh on Elmwood Avenue in Rochester, will run from 4:30 to 6:30 and also feature remarks by Rosemary Rivera of the Alliance for Quality Education. Call the RTA at 585-546-2681 to register or for more information.)