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School busI followed Rochester City School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas yesterday as he knocked on the doors of truant children. These were kindergartners to third graders who had racked up excessive absences. One-third of students districtwide have already missed a week of school.

One mother, whom Vargas woke up at 11 a.m., said her son repeatedly misses the bus and she has no other way of getting him to school. Vargas told her that was unacceptable. He said neighborhood schools could cut down on transportation issues, which were cited by many parents of absent children.

Children’s health issues was another big excuse.  Staff told one mother the nurse has her son’s medication and can dispense it or home tutoring is available. Another family’s version of health problems were not the types of issues that prompt most people to keep their kids home from school.

Deputy Mayor Len Redon encountered this mother:


“The woman had recently had a baby, had some complications. She seemed to really get the message her son really needed to be in school,” Redon said. “She said he’s very bright and she knew this wasn’t good, but with all the trials and tribulations of the new baby she wasn’t able to get him there as regularly.”

Staff members and volunteers said the parents they encountered were extremely receptive. They appreciated someone cared.  It’s clear the parents need accountability along with positive support and help solving problems.

It’s certainly appalling a mom can’t get her kid on the bus every morning, but placing blame won’t get the kid to school.  One volunteer said she wished she could knock on the door of the parents again today to make sure they followed through. Maybe that’s what it will take.

Links of the Day:

– Shower drug dealers with love. That might get them off of Clifford and Conkey.

– Really? A seven percent raise for the Water Authority director?

– A plan to build a Wegmans on New Jersey farmland has met opposition. The complex would include an affordable housing component, which one resident likened to a “ghetto.”

Kodak spots are leaving Disneyland.

– After assaults on Buffalo teachers, the no-suspension movement is under scrutiny.

– Doesn’t it seems colleges are always under construction? That building binge is costing students and it’s not sustainable.

14 Responses to Missing the Bus

  1. December 14, 2012 at 10:18 am Claire HZ responds:

    Your caption for the link about project HOPE seems to be sarcastic, but this type of approach really works. It’s about more than showering drug dealers with love. It’s about showing them the effect of their actions, and holding them accountable to people they care about. It’s about having them join in to help the neighborhood instead of fighting an us-against-them war with the law enforcement.

    It has worked in multiple cities around the country. It breaks up the open air drug markets, but it also gives the young men in the neighborhood a chance to get their lives together instead of being repeatedly incarcerated, which doesn’t do anybody any good.

    I’m pretty excited we’re going to try this approach in Rochester.

  2. December 14, 2012 at 11:46 am theodore kumlander responds:

    if supt. vargas wants more kids in school maybe he should not make them walk so far to get there. would any parent force their 8 year old child to walk a mile and a half thru the worst sections of the city in the worst weather. to go to a school the news paper has been telling them for years is crumbling and inadquate.

  3. December 14, 2012 at 11:54 am theodore kumlander responds:

    so bolgen vargas is dancing to danny wegmens music now. you can not run a school like a business. because schools are not selling anything. schools offer education which is different for each student.

  4. Project Hope…..my thoughts….who benefits?…I think it is the director of Prioject Hope and the few family and friends that will probably be collecting a paycheck from these grants. As for the chance of success in transforming these drug peddlers into hard working citizens…very little. I don’t think there is any magic in how to better oneself. You have a structured home with working parents who teach values. It all starts there. Once you are on the street selling, you are lost. My belief is as a society you need to provide tough love. You can’t be providing incentives for bad behavior. This includes money and rent for teen moms and welfare for able body young men and women who can work. Let’s return to a jobs corp work program. Unfortunately, the culture of dependence has a long history. We cannot change it overnight. We need to begin to expect responsibility for ones actions, not reward.

    • December 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm Claire HZ responds:

      Perhaps you should try reading up on the method before you make judgements like this. This method has been proven to work in other cities.

      It really makes a lot of sense, and uses less resources than continual arrests, court costs, and incarceration. The participants also end up in a better place than they would have otherwise, earning money and supporting families so they don’t have to use precious tax payer money just to make ends meet.

      Here’s an interview with the man who came up with the method. http://www.npr.org/2011/11/01/141803766/interrupting-violence-with-the-message-dont-shoot

      He’s also got a book, and there’s lots of articles you could probably read online before you dismiss it out-of-hand.

      • So far, $280,500 is being given to this organization according to the article. I stated my thoughts on my doubts that this effort would result in any measurable improvement in the cycle of crime among the lost. You seem to think otherwise. Only time will tell. Will somebody be tracking how this money is spent? Should we expect that there will be a number of drug sellers transformed into responsible full time employed? I object to these efforts because they ignore the root of the problem. Let’s for a moment agree that this effort will transform this street corner and maybe result in a few changing their ways and get a job. Next year, the 12 year olds of yesterday will replace them. Until you address the root cause, this corner will return to the way it was.

        • December 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm Claire HZ responds:

          I was attempting to supply you with actual information from which to form an opinion rather than just a gut feeling.

          This has been done before. And it worked. I thought you might be interested.

  5. December 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm Claire HZ responds:

    Hey Rachel – I was trying to respond to OAJ with that comment. Sorry.

  6. December 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm Michael Shea responds:

    What about dad’s?

  7. Pingback: Free Rides Adding Up » The Rochesterian

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