A Brief Conversation with Walter Cooper, PhD, former scientist (Eastman Kodak) and Regent Emeritus of the State of New York
Southwest Tribune: We need to have better ‘leadership’ in our schools. What do you mean by that?
For example, the family is the primary determinate of educational achievement. Any district that has a very effective Title I Parent Organization, where they involve the parents into their children’s future, the district succeeds. We do not have an effective Title I Parent Organization because if we did with the way low graduation rates are now, we would have a thousand parents before the board protesting the jeopardy of their children’s future and we don’t have that.
Southwest Tribune: Why do you think it’s so hard to get the parents involve?
You can get them involve. I represent NY State on the Interstate Migrant Educational Penalty. Two years ago, we had a meeting in Colorado.
For 30,000 to 35,000 migrant students, the graduation rate is 76%. Last year in Chicago, the graduation rate was 77%. Urban communities with all kinds of problems at greater magnitudes than what we have here in Rochester. Yet in Chicago, they were able to get their graduation rate up to 77%.
Southwest Tribune: And the main underline why that happened was because?
Southwest Tribune: So, should we blow the whole thing up right now when it comes to ‘leadership’ and start over?
I think if the parents are conveyed the message that their children futures are depended upon them being actively involved in their education then things can change. You can be poor, if you have the interest, which I’ve learned from my own experience. I came from a family of seven children.
I grew up with five sisters and one brother. My mother had nine years of education. My father didn’t have a day. My first five years of childhood, my brother and I slept in the kitchen in a pull-out cart.
My dad worked 44 years hard labor in coal mines and steel mills. Under those impoverished circumstances and conditions, everybody graduated from high school, five went on to college, and three earned advanced degrees.
When I left home in 1946 to go to college, I had sixty dollars to my name, my sister Thelma’s luggage and my parents prayers. But most importantly, I knew who I was as a young man when I got there. My high school senior year term paper was, The Negro Soldiers Contribution to American History.
You see, until we start teaching our children who they are and why they have a place in this society, because their forefathers had shed blood and sacrifice for them to have an opportunity.
Southwest Tribune: Should we continue with a Board of Education? -or- Should we want to see the ‘State’ step in and take over the district?
First thing, the Mayor should take the step and ask for an Appointed Board, where she would have the power to appoint members of the Board of Education. When I went in front of the Board in 1960 it was an Appointed Board.
The chairman of the Board was Judge Jacob Gilliam. I believe he was a member of the Mensa Society.
*(Mensa is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test.)
Southwest Tribune: If that don’t happen or any of the other scenarios, should parents file a class action lawsuit against the district for failing to provide a basic quality K-12 Education?
They should. Look, if my children were in a district that wasn’t producing for them, I will use every legal avenue available to see that the school district works. If you love your child and you love your child future and if you believe in it, you would do whatever is necessary for your child to get a quality education.