Question 7 of 20 for 2020 NRBOE Candidates: Black Flight?

Written By: Robert Cox
  1. There has been significant “Black Flight” from the New Rochelle public schools since 2010, with about 650 Black students now “missing”, how would you propose the Board address Black Flight?

BASED ON THIS ANALYSIS: Framing a Discussion about Equity in the New Rochelle Public Schools

Adina Berrios Brooks: According to a Gallup Kappan poll on public education the majority of families want their children to attend a high-quality neighborhood school. We need to ensure that they have that choice. New Rochelle schools should be synonymous with high quality public education- for all children. And there are existing programs that appeal to the interests and talents of our children. That has to be our mission: communicating that message to all stakeholders, and ensuring equitable access to these programs for all.

Katie Castellano Minaya: If we are truly going to talk about “Black flight” then we need to talk about the history of New Rochelle and the history of this nation. This will not be summed up in one paragraph in The Talk of the Sound. It will not be addressed in one forum or workshop or Town Hall. Black flight is real in New Rochelle and the data confirms that many Black families, when able, are choosing to send their children to other schools. Children are not all the same. Not Black children. Not white children. Not any children. There are times when many students, particularly Black children, are stereotyped, experience micro and macro-aggressions, and deal with effects of racism on their daily educational lives. It is not one person’s fault and no one person can fix it. We will need to ask hard questions and have courageous conversations if we want to go below a surface level answer to this question. It will require us looking at the history of access and power in this city. We will need to look at the effects of generations of miseducation and missed opportunities that are the effects of systemic racism. Again, this is not any one person’s charge to be able to solve it. When we begin to really talk about the impacts of racism on our children, then the work can begin. Teachers all love their children but many have been trained to be color blind and treat all children equally. A school district where all children flourish, in an environment of high expectations, inclusivity and diversity should be our overarching goal and the best way to attract and retain families and their children.

Barbara D’Alois: These are certainly dramatic numbers and deserve our attention. It is my belief, that this “flight” speaks directly to my position on providing the proper environment needed for our children. You would be hard pressed to find another high school in the area that offers the breadth and depth of curriculum offered at our schools. There is literally something for everyone. From in-depth special services to the most advanced programs. So you have to ask, ” Why would a parent choose not to take advantage of the exciting curriculum right here in our own neighborhood?” Everything to succeed in any path is already here, except, perhaps, the environment. We do a disservice to our students and staff when we see parents responding in this manner and we fail to address the fundamental question. We all want what’s best for our children, and it saddens me to think a parent must make such a difficult decision, although I can certainly understand their concerns. As a board member, it would be one of my many tasks to begin the process of restoring the proper environment of safety and security along with an inviting and supportive climate. It has to start with someone and I believe I am that person.

Christopher Daniello:Did not answer.

Stephen A. DiDonato: Any flight is an issue. If parents are not comfortable keeping their children in our schools for any reason that should be considered OUR failure. We need to repair that. That will be a challenge that I hope to address.

Sharon D. Footes: Black Flight is not solely an issue of the Board. Many factors go into how and how Black Students leave the District.

Matthew T. Hirschman: Restoring dignity and focusing on excellence and accepting that not every policy has to stroke a perceived narrative. We need to make sure that all of our students are getting all the resources possible.

Michael Leone: “Black Flight” from our community is like the many-headed hydra. Without more information, the question asks for too much conjecture and speculation. A lot of back flight from New Rochelle is because of upward mobility of black families and that is good flight for the blacks who leave. We should not try to retain a specific ethnic or racial group just for the sake of retention.

Timothy McKnight: “Black Flight” from our community has many layers that do not fall solely on the School District of New Rochelle. I do feel that this small phenomenon can be reversed, but there are some items we must be transparent about and examine as a district. Based on the numbers from 2010, there has been a slight increase in population from the African American community, with a slight decline in the total enrollment numbers. This has many factors that need to be further examined (i.e. location of new members of our community, the household make-up of these new members, the ratio of school aged children and families that have moved out vs. those that have moved in). With the fact that some students of color have dropped in academic performance after their departure from Elementary School, the private school option has become more prevalent for the community. Many households that reside on the North End have the financial means to utilize private schools at a choice for their children. There has also been an increase in student-athlete recruitment from neighboring private schools (Iona Preparatory, Stepinac, Mt. St. Michael, Cardinal Hayes, Fordham Prep) of our local talent. We cannot address the cost of living as a district, but many of the conversations I had with parents that opted for private school is the overall structure and attention to the student-athletes, especially at a HS the size of our single public school. We must develop programs that support the goals of these students. There should be the development of athletic guidance counselor that can support the nearly 500 student athletes during their tenure at the school. We also must address the early opportunities that are provided our students in programs such as PAVE (arts are very big in our community) and Ingnite (many of our students can utilize this as freshman). These are the things that separate us from private schools. This is where a partnership with our city officials can be beneficial, especially with the expected boom to our school population in the forth-coming years.

Mario A. Scarano: The Board must seek to restore excellence and purpose to every student’s education in our schools. We must reverse this trend of disastrous leadership and return to proper board governance and sound hiring decisions. I do not think that flight from our schools is based on race as much as it is based on quality education or the lack thereof.

Julia Taylor: As a board member, I would want to look at the data to see why students are not attending our public schools and encourage a plan of action. I know there are a lot of students who leave the district for programs like Prep for Prep, athletic scholarship opportunities to preparatory or private schools, and some parents simply opt for a smaller environment. If indeed there is “black flight” then I would want to see a plan of action from the Superintendent that addresses this issue.

Donald Vega: First I would say this question is loaded, phrased as if the school system is responsible. I would hazard a guess the cost of living in New Rochelle and NY has more to do with people of all colors and backgrounds leaving NR. They aren’t missing, they moved.

Secondly, the board’s responsibility is to ensure we have higher education standards, processes, staff, community relationships and plans. Ensuring the classroom is a safe and comfortable environment. If everyone is working towards those goals, then no one will ever leave NR just because of the school system.