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Race and poverty center RCSD Town Hall debate

Updated: Friday, May 30 2014, 02:50 PM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. -- Why do city schools struggle more than other schools in Monroe County?

That was a question asked Wednesday night at the 13WHAM Town Hall, answered with several theories.

Some point to disparities in race and the number of minorities in the classroom, compared to the lack of minorities teaching those students.

Rochester School Board President Van White pointed to poverty as one explanation.

"There is a ceiling to that and that ceiling is defined by the concentrated poverty that exists in our community," White said. "Until we share in the burden of those challenges, we will not break that glass ceiling."

But some residents said it's more than that.

"This seems to be something that is asked often, and it seems the scapegoat or scripted response is poverty, it's about poverty, this is why we're not doing what we're doing," city resident Jeremaine Curry said.

The topic of race created a firestorm on social media and was often the center of debate.

East High School was another subject.

While school leaders talked about the importance of saving it, a former student there placed the blame for its poor performance on students.

Abdul Bounds admitted to missing about two months straight of school without his parents' knowledge. He took responsibility for not being the best he could be.

He said he turned his life around when it was almost too late.

"I personally take full responsibility knowing where I was supposed to be during those hours," Bounds said. "Now I've matured and grown up and took a look a back at the situation."

From a former student to an active one, Sophie Gallivan took school leaders to task, encouraging more parent engagement and pushing the need for more student voices.

"Why aren't we listening to students and including them in every decision and listening to what they have to say?" she asked. "Often times, students have a lot of answers, a lot of the information that adults don't know about."


Race and poverty center RCSD Town Hall debate

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