A Blast From The Past
An editorial appeared in Tuesday’s (March 22) Democrat & Chronicle that ostensibly waxed nostaligic over the organization heretofore known as the RUMP Group, which had publicized in 2004 a series of recommenadations that would dramatically boost Rochester City School District overall performance objectives, thereby elevating standardized test scores and high school graduation rates. Among the group’s educationally-related findings were that the RCSD, when Manny Rivera was the RCSD Superintendent, should have more aggressively sought to close aged schools due to declining enrollment, and to renovate an unspecified number of other schools.
Like what current Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard is attempting to do, the RUMP Group advocated for principals to be given additional control over their school’s budgetary and personnel matters. The D&C editorial writer, Jane Sutter, also made reference to conversations she has reportedly had regarding this very topic with district principals, expressing their displeasure over how often the district essentially dumps certain staff on them without any prior notification. I would like to ask Sutter how many different principals she has conversed with about this matter, and how frequently this happens.
RUMP Comes Into Being
The RUMP Group, a non-profit entity, originated in 1997, under the initial direction of John Summers, of Jasco Tools, and Jay Stein, from the University of Rochester Medical Center. Eventually, the number of individuals participating in the group – which was comprised of local business and college executives – reached 20 people, and they were broken down into different working groups to address a variety of regional business and social concerns. Through a series of collaborative enterprises, the group established the ability to influence a number of different local developmental and charitable inititatives. It was in 2002, with the consolidation of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Management Council, that the Rochester Business Alliance (RBA) was formed, which has, over time, exerted continually expanding influence on the Rochester political and business scene.
Not Everthing RUMP Touched Has Turned Into Gold
For every positive change that the RBA (nee RUMP Group) has affected, namely the Greater Rochester Entreprise, which in effect is a venture capital fund that provides seed money for start-up companies and extensive marketing support – it has also swung and missed on a host of other project proposals (For the record, there was no formal declaration of the RUMP Group transforming into the RBA; it is simply assumed based on a series and events described in documents available on the internet.) One such celebrated miss was their enthusiastic endorsement of the since-foundered Renaissance Square downtown re-development project.
With certain research and analytical support from the Center for Government Research – another of the RBA’s oft-utilized affiliates – the coterie laid out the project’s supposed varied provincial benefits, not the least of which was its potential inclusion of an entirely new, state of the art performing arts center. Unfortunately, the performing arts center and other two project components – a new downtown Monroe Community College campus and a new subterranean transit center – were to be funded in (very) large part with public dollars. This particularly unpopular aspect was an issue key players attempted to circumvent by hyping the fact that tens of millions of federal transportion dollars would be used to finance some of the overall construction costs.
The general public, though, saw right through it, realizing there was very little commitment from private interests. After the Fast Ferry endeavor and its eventually inglorious demise, area taxpayers were typically overly reluctant to authorize such a substantial public pledge-particulary for one that, if things went bad, we’d be stuck paying possibly millions of dollars for. The fizzled Fast Ferry endeavor left an acrid taste in the mouths of many. As a result, business and political officials had little margin for error, and for them, regrettably, they ended up making several critical missteps, ultimately leading to Ren Square’s much-publicized death.
The RBA’s Vast Influence
That is not to say the key players have since crawled under a rock and disappeared. On the contrary. The RBA and its siblings continue to flex considerable political muscle in town, effectively prevailing upon, among others, the D&C, as I see it, to serve as yet another branch in its vast and influential commercial network. Although some of their aforementioned suggestions to improve the RCSD are meritorious, the organization – or collective organizations – have failed to deliver on one key crucial measure. They have all done a poor job of reaching out to and involving the community in their discussions and recommended methods to improve the overall quality of life in the region. And in the case of the RCSD and its chronic shortcomings, they can’t continue to conveniently blame their repeated failures to sweepingly improve RCSD performance on the inflexibility of teachers unions. The RCSD’s problems are the product of a combination of societal and institutional factors.
The truth, to my mind, is that their way of doing things is so parochial and self-aggrandizing that little genuine benefit to the greater good has been realized. It’s time to widen the sphere of influence to include a broader cross-section of the community in comprehensive reform efforts.
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