Regent Cofield Conundrum
In Rochester, NY on Wednesday the 18th, the Parent and Community Coalition for Educational Change, which the Community Education Task Force is a part of, organized a forum at School Without Walls featuring New York State Board of Regents Vice Chancellor Milton Cofield. Coalition for Justice in Education, a partnering organization in the Parent and Community Coalition for Educational Change, was central in organizing for this event.
We collaboratively publicized and attracted community attention to the event. By Wednesday night, there was close to sixty people present at School Without Walls, including parents, teachers, students, education scholars, retired administrators and concerned community members. Many in the audience intended to raise crucial issues and questions about the New York State Board of Regents’ policy agenda. The Regents recently appointed a new Education Commissioner, John King with no parental input and approved an unsound new teacher evaluation system intended to pressure 40% of teachers evaluations being based on state-based standardized tests. These two nascent issues together with a host of other questions regarding state educational policy, leadership, and democratic representation were bound to come up on Wednesday night.
However, when I arrived at School without Walls, I had this growing feeling that we might be stood up. I wanted to think, “hey, you’re just being cynical and doubtful, he’ll show up”. However my first instinct was correct as we waited to no avail. His secretary had confirmed that it was on his schedule so everyone expected him to be there. After making phone calls to his house which went straight to voice mail and attempting to contact him several ways, we rightfully concluded that he wasn’t coming. I noticed that a few close allies of his that frequently come to events he is present in were not present at this event and solemnly concluded that we had been blown off. There was palatable frustration and anger in the room, as this felt like a stinging embodiment of the dismissive, flippant betrayal of democracy and public dialogue many of us throughout the nation have been on the receiving end of for some time.
We discussed further action and a broad range of educational concerns for a period of time and went home with an injurious list of objections to Cofield’s absence. I immediately began a response for Regent Cofield when I got home and sent it the next day, featured here:
Dear Regent Cofield,
I am writing as a member of the Parent and Community Coalition for Educational Change. I was extremely disappointed that you failed to come to the forum on Wednesday (5/18/11) at School Without Walls. It was disrespectful and insulting that you failed to notify us that you did not plan (as promised) to attend, and did not respond to our attempts to contact you.There was over fifty educators, parents, students and community members present who were expecting a meaningful dialogue on crucial educational issues of concern to our community. As the Vice Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents representing the greater Rochester area, it is deeply problematic that you would neglect public concern as evidenced by your absence without notification Wednesday evening.Along with many others, I expect an opportunity to be able to publicly meet with you, as was the intention of Wednesday’s forum. If you represent me and others, you need to know us and know our concerns.I look forward to hearing back from you promptly.Sincerely,Mark FriedmanRCSD TeacherCommunity Education Task Force memberParent and Community Coalition for Educational Change member
Dear Mr. Friedman
I do not know you sir but assure the matter of which you easily impugn me is one of miscommunication and planning rather than malice or thoughtlessness. I will be able to correct the first matter and will contact organizers of the event you attended to arrange this. On the second matter I meet and have met regularly with a wide variety of constituents, including many who may have attended your event, in my 9 year tenure Regent. During all of this time my personal integrity has never been assailed in the cavalier manner of your response.
Milton Cofield, Regent