Vincent Orsi

Question 1.

Across New York State, White students were given nearly twice as much access as their Latino and Black peers to a range of key courses in middle and high school in the 2016-17 school year. They were nearly three times as likely to be enrolled in advanced courses like Advanced Placement Math and Science. In Niagara Falls City School District in 2016-17, for example, Black and Latino students represented 43% of total enrollment in schools that offer an AP/IB math and science course, but only 16% of enrollment in those AP/IB math and science courses. How should the Niagara Falls school board address the issue of equitable access to advanced courses?

Answer 1.

“The advanced course programs at Niagara Falls are open to all students that meet the program requirements and actively seek enrollment. There is no preferential treatment given to any students based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

As a school board member, I’d be more interested in the tangible variables that may be causing enrollment numbers to be askew. Are the students true potential being accurately and efficiently evaluated/monitored? Should we be taking a more active approach to finding students that may flourish in such programs? Are we adequately communicating course availability, curriculums and requirements, to students and their parents? Are we doing our best to maximize the opportunities available to ‘all’ of our students?”

Question 2.

New York State has expanded the ways students can earn a high school diploma. These new rules can provide multiple pathways for students to demonstrate college and career readiness. But they can also be used to “track” students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities into less rigorous coursework and lower graduation standards. How should the Niagara Falls school board address the issue of making sure the high school diploma has real value for all students?

Answer 2.

“I don’t understand why children of color are being categorized into a group of students with potential learning disabilities? I feel that a high school diploma has real value if it not only prepares students for college or a career, but ultimately prepares them for being successful in life. This should be a lifelong mission for all school districts. One that begins when they are very young students and culminates as a young adult preparing to graduate from high school. Whether it be college, a career, or a trade, we need to ensure our students are prepared to be active and successful members of our society. Are their enough opportunities for our children’s to succeed?”

Question 3.

New York State’s school districts provide relatively little difference in budgeted per-pupil funding between their schools, regardless of the student populations each school serves, as opposed to providing schools serving the highest share of high-need low-income students greater levels of resources. How should the Niagara Falls school board allocate the resources that it controls?

Answer 3.

“I don’t have enough knowledge on the per-pupil distribution of funds within our district to confidently answer this question. What I do know is that if there are specific needs that routinely need to be addressed at any school, regardless of need/income level, programs and/or resources must be allocated to ensure our teachers have whatever is necessary to be successful in the social and educational development of our students.”

Question 4.

One-third of all New York State schools had no Latino or Black teachers in the 2015-16 school year. As a result, more than 115,000 Latino and Black students were enrolled in schools without a single full-time same-race/ethnicity teacher, and nearly half of the state’s White students attended schools without a single full-time Latino or Black teachers. In Niagara Falls City School District, 41% students were Latino or Black in 2015-16, compared to 7% of teachers. How should the Niagara Falls school board address the issue of improving access to strong, well-supported, and diverse educators?

Answer 4.

“Niagara Falls has a staff development program that helps to partially fund the education of current members aspiring to become teachers. The program serves to diversify the workforce by offering opportunities to employees already vested in the system and community. Increasing awareness and promoting participation in such programs would serve any district well.”

Question 5.

New York State schools suspended a student at least once every minute during the 2016-17 school year. During that period, New York’s education system suspended Black students at more than four times the rate of White students outside of New York City. At the high school level, for example, Niagara Falls City School District suspended 58% of Black male students in 2016-17. How should the Niagara Falls school board address school discipline, including the racial disparities in how schools suspend students?

Answer 5.

“In an effort to address suspension rates, the Niagara Falls School District recently implemented a restorative justice program that utilizes a youth court system where students are judged by their peers and sentenced to things such as community service, tutoring, etc. Continuing to be creative with disciplinary measures and exploring alternative ways to penalize poor behavior, while still maintaining child care can help to keep students off of the streets and out of other trouble. Reaching out to other districts within the network, sharing and entertaining new ideas, is paramount in combatting increasing suspension rates.”