Monday, February 01, 2010

Rochester school forums delayed until bill is drafted

January 30, 2010

Rochester school forums delayed until bill is drafted

Gary McLendon
Staff writer

As protests against mayoral control of the City School District continued Friday, Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy announced that the first two of the four public forums on school governance have been postponed.

The forums have been postponed, Duffy said, because Gov. David Paterson's staff has not completed writing the draft legislation.

"While they are working diligently on this, it is clearly not yet finished and we do not have a firm date when the draft legislation will be ready to take to the people," Duffy said in a statement. "I do not want to bring together gatherings of people and not have answers to their questions."

A schedule on all four meetings will be set once state legislation is in hand, Duffy said. The announcement, released Friday afternoon, came as about two dozen people endured 15-degree weather to protest outside of state Assemblyman David Gantt's office on University Avenue. Gantt supports mayoral control, which would abolish the elected seven-member school board.

"We want a seven-member group leading the schools, not one person. He (Gantt) should vote for the community's rights, not one man," said School 45 teacher and protester Lori Thomas.

Gantt was present, but did not speak directly with protesters. "This bill hasn't even been written. I don't know what they're protesting for," Gantt said.

In Duffy's release, Gantt said, "Once we have draft legislation to discuss with families and parents, the State Assembly will also conduct public hearings to get everyone's input."

Duffy and opponents agree on the need to increase the district's roughly 50 percent graduation rate. However, protesters are adamant that any plan maintains the public's right to vote.

"It is unbelievable in that he has abandoned his constituency," activist Howard Eagle said, referring to Gantt's support of mayoral control. "It shows a blatant disrespect for the people he is supposed to represent."

Opponents said at the protest that they have secured a meeting with Paterson or his staff on Feb. 22 in Albany.

In addition, former County Legislator Chris Wilmot said he will lead a class action lawsuit against "any legislation drafted to bring about mayoral control."

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