Transcript: Need to Know Rochester for February 26, 2010

Coming up on Need to Know…

 

Why are so many of Rochester’s children, overweight?

 

A lot of parents don’t eat healthy, so how can we teach their kids to eat healthy?

 

We talk with educators, families, and children about the childhood obesity epidemic.

 

And Rochester City School Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard joins us to discuss some big changes he’s making in hopes of improving student performance.

 

(ANNOUNCER)  ROCHESTER'S NEWSMAGAZINE SINCE 1997, THIS IS NEED TO KNOW.

 

I’M JULIE PHILIPP, AND THANKS FOR JOINING ME FOR THIS EDITION OF NEED TO KNOW.

 

AS THE GROWNUPS CONTINUE TO BATTLE OVER WHO SHOULD CONTROL THE ROCHESTER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, CHILDREN ARE STILL GOING TO CLASS.  AND SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT JEAN-CLAUDE BRIZARD IS STILL TRYING TO MAKE SURE THEY LEARN A THING OR TWO WHILE THEY’RE THERE.  HE’S BUSY IMPLEMENTING A STRATEGIC PLAN HE UNVEILED IN DECEMBER, AND HE’S ABOUT TO ANNOUNCE SOME VERY SIGNFICIANT CHANGES.  HE JOINS US NOW TO TALK ABOUT ALL THAT. Thanks for coming in today.

 

(Brizard) Thanks Julie.

 

(Julie) Your strategic plan, you released it about a week or two before Mayor Duffy was going to seek Mayoral Control, do you feel as if the plan has gotten lost in the fray here?

 

(Brizard) I don't think so and we're working very, very, very hard to make sure it doesn't get lost. Fundamentally, whatever government structure you have in place, its about teachers, its about principals with kids in schools, so whether its board governance or mayoral governance, you still have classrooms, you still have schools going on, and I don't think that plan will change either way, honestly.

 

(Julie) The mayor has come out in support of you and your strategic plan.

 

(Brizard) Yes, it’s a good plan; it’s based on really effective practices from good districts across the country.

 

(Julie) Ok, and one of the ideas in, ways of meeting your goals that were outlined in the strategic plan, includes autonomous schools, and I know you've been going through a selection process, it’s just about over. First, just briefly describe what those schools will be.

 

(Brizard) Well, we'll have five schools that will get leverage in terms of hiring, in terms of budget, in terms of innovation. We fundamentally believe that if you have good principals and a good team of teachers, and you get out of their way, they're gonna make magic. For them to think outside of the box, to do what needs to be done to improve student achievement.  When you take a look at the pockets of success that we have in urban schools, School 19, School 58, School Without Walls, etc, you find strong leadership, great teaching, and they can fly if you get out of their way.  So the idea really comes from what we have in charter schools, good charter schools, not the ones who push out kids, but good charter schools, where the principal has leverage in hiring, and has leverage in spending money, you begin to find the kinds of radical improvement we need in urban education.

 

(Julie) And that depended somewhat on an agreement with the unions, the last time I talked with you, it was tentative. Have you reached agreement with the union that will allow the schools to have some more control over hiring decisions and that sort of thing?

 

(Brizard) The short answer is yes, but let me explain that the only permission that we needed was the staffing piece. So the RTA had to agree with us to allow those principals to not have seniority rights, bumping, in other words, as teachers leave other schools they couldn't come in and take the jobs of the newer, younger teachers in the system, so that they have protection, or they'll have protection against. The budgetary pieces and everything else, we certainly have the leverage to do that without the union. It’s always wonderful of course to have collaboration and make that happen.

 

(Julie) Five schools, how many applications did you get and what has the review process been like?

 

(Brizard) That's been difficult. We only had about seven or eight applications because many principals had difficulty with the 80% vote from the RTA. The RTA required that 80% of the teachers in the school say yes to the autonomy schools application; some were missing by a vote, some were missing by a few votes, so that was a mountain for some schools to actually climb, but the 7 who applied, I think we have some very good candidates in that pool, I think it will be easy for us to get the five we are looking for to pilot this program.

 

(Julie) Now I know you probably don't want to announce them on this program, but if you want to, go right ahead. You talked about creating some magic, what are some of the things that we're going to see?

 

(Brizard) Well let me give you an example, we think of special education, which is a big issue for us in the City School District, you find that people tend to focus squarely on compliance issues. Schools like that can begin to think outside of the box and say well, what can I do to really begin to dismantle or change special ed and focus on performance instead? Because it’s really not a special ed issue, it’s a general education issue, and some of the schools have complete integrated classrooms when it comes to special ed versus general education classes. The other piece though, you begin to find that people can spend the money better than we can tell them how to spend the money, so if they want to create an after school program or music program or science program, you're going to begin to find the kinds of innovation and wants and needs that sort of fit that community better, where principals and teachers have the leverage to spend the money the way that they see fit, of course within the laws that exist in New York and the nation, but the fact is that you're gonna begin to see the kinds of rethinking of curriculum, of pedagogy, and resource alignment to schools, that perhaps you've not seen in the past.

 

(Julie) So taking this hands-off approach on these particular schools, is this, it sounds sort of experimental, is there a point, at some point where they have to prove that it’s working?

 

(Brizard) Well the student achievement piece is always of course what you look at, but we would not be basing on a pilot that we're just doing, we've seen this in Chicago, in Charlotte, in San Francisco, in a number of cities across America we've done this, and proven that this is a wonderful thing to do. In fact, the whole charter schools program was based on what we know about autonomy. Bottom line is very simple: think of a business, if you tell someone, I'm gonna tell you who to hire, I want to tell you how to spend your money, but I want to hold you accountable for profit, that doesn't make much sense to a business owner. People want autonomy but of course in return for performance, need to be held accountable. You tell a small business, you can hire who you want to hire, you spend the money the way you see fit, but of course, you've got to make a profit, or you're gonna go out of business. So there is a similar alignment to that kind of thinking, but if you look at great districts, great urban districts across the country that have done this work, we have some great examples that we can follow, including Boston, who had a pilot program for the Boston pilot schools that Adam Urbanski was part of many, many years ago.

 

(Julie) So at some point you'll look at student performance in the schools that are chosen.

 

(Brizard) Without question.

 

(Julie) Another big, first, when will that announcement come, when will the five schools be announced?

 

(Brizard) We were hoping by the end of February, but right now, about mid-March, we'll be doing this.

 

(Julie) Ok, so a couple of weeks, and in a couple of weeks you're also going to announce, make another more difficult decision, which schools are going to close?

 

(Brizard) Yes. We're going to present a portfolio plan that I think is going to generate quite a bit of interest in the community. I can give you some highlights; of course we have the schools of Franklin, the schools of Edison, Marshall, that were part of the persistently low-performing announcement from the state. We're gonna go beyond that and begin to take a look at the entire structure of the district, again it goes back to our plan, our five-year strategic plan, in terms of looking at dream schools versus autonomous schools, looking at configurations, we're gonna put pause on a number of great configurations, if I have my way, I'm gonna begin to dismantle this 7-12 structure that we have in the district. It won't completely go away, but you're going to see more K-8 grade spans being created. That's a much better model than the 6-12 or 7-12. I would rather see a 12-year old in a school with 7 and 8 year olds, than versus a 12-year old with 20-year olds in a school. K-8 models have been researched and they have better achievement than 6 or 7-12, so you're gonna see that begin to happen across the district. In fact one of the autonomous school's application requested a K-8 grade span structure, that’s the kind of innovation I'm talking about. We weren't even thinking about that school to become a K-8, but the application made the request, and we thought, wow, this is fantastic opportunity, will we actually jump on it.

 

(Julie) So how do you actually go about re-configuring and closing, is that a phase in kind of process?

 

(Brizard) A school that may be K-6 may grow one grade at a time to a K-8, one that’s say 6-8, may grow down, a grade each year down to a K or P-8, the closures will phase out over time, this way it doesn't impact the rest of the system. If I were to close a school and take all of the kids and move them elsewhere, what I would be doing is burdening the other schools in the district and perhaps even creating failures across the district, so we're gonna phase out the schools, allow students to stay in their schools and graduate with their schools, and phasing new schools in their place, so phasing out, phasing in process.

 

(Julie) So you have two new schools coming in on board. How many will be closing, on the close list?

 

(Brizard) Many. I can't tell you exactly how many because I'll be giving that away.

 

(Julie) More than two I guess.

 

(Brizard) More than two. That's a guarantee.

 

(Julie) There are nine schools that are consistently low performing. Are they all being targeted?

 

(Brizard) I can tell you one that will not be closing and that's East High School. East we're going to do a transformation model. We're going to look at putting a professional development center at the school because East has already started down this road of transformation from last year. We're going to continue and perhaps give them some more fuel to keep moving. The other schools we are looking at are transformation and or closure in many instances. This is a fantastic opportunity to actually re-do half of the high schools in the city. Trust that we will address that and approach that vigorously because it's a great opportunity. We have been talking to different intermediary models across the country. College board, EL, and others to help us in the creation of new schools in the district, but do it right this time. I'm also talking to the charter associations. I would like to replace one of the schools with a charter school. A district charter because again it's about giving choice to the parents.

 

(Julie) So the district will operate not only autonomous schools, but its own charter school?

 

(Brizard) I'd like to invent the charter school because the charter school will have independence from the district but it would be one that we have created in partnership, perhaps, with the charter management organization.

 

(Julie) So will that be a brand new one? Not one that's already existing?

 

(Brizard) Yes. It will be a new one. When you look at the continuum, you'll see schools that are struggling we're going to hold by the hand and we're going to make them better. You're going to have autonomous schools that have some autonomy, and charter schools that have autonomy.

 

(Julie) We are out of time, but thank you so much for coming in today.

 

(Brizard) Thank you. 

 

JEAN-CLAUDE BRIZARD, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE ROCHESTER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT.  WE’RE GOING TO STICK WITH THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT NOW, AS WE TAKE A LOOK ONE OF THE MANY PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGES THAT ARE MAKING IT TOUGH FOR SOME STUDENTS TO SUCCEED.  OUR FOCUS: CHILDHOOD OBESITY.  IT’S A NATIONAL EPIDEMIC THAT IS HITTING URBAN CHILDREN ESPECIALLY HARD.  ACCORDING TO A UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER STUDY, MORE THAN ONE IN FIVE CHILDREN AND TEENS LIVING IN THE CITY ARE OBESE – MORE THAN ONE IN THREE ARE OVERWEIGHT.  LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT’S HAPPENING AT HOME AND AT SCHOOL IN THIS PAIR OF REPORTS – THE FIRST FROM NEED TO KNOW’S CARLET CLEARE.

 

(Joe Collins) "People more think about how I'm going to pay this next bill than more how I'm going to have a heart attack tomorrow."

 

(Carlet Cleare) JOE AND JAMESHIA COLLINS SAY THEY’RE DOING WHAT THEY CAN TO help THEIR TWO DAUGHTERS, 4 YEAR OLD JALYAH, AND eight year old JALYSA, get into shape. But it’s not easy.

 

(Joe Collins) "I mean some people don't want their kids to go out side and play, because they’re scared they're going to get shot."

 

(Jameshia Collins) “We have a backyard but I rather take them to a park somewhere and get them out the neighborhood, and I mean out the neighborhood.”

 

(Cleare) So THE GIRLS usually PLAY INSIDE, and they’re not alone.  In a recent survey by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, city parents listed “unsafe neighborhoods” as the number one reason their kids aren’t physically fit.

 

(Bonnie DeVinney) "The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children need an hour of heart thumping of play every single day, and they are not getting it in this city or across the nation."

 

(Cleare) DeVinney says HAVING A SAFE PLACE TO play ISN’T THE ONLY PROBLEM city FAMILIES are facing.  ROUGHLY A QUARTER OF them don’t have cars – making it hard to fill the fridge with a week’s worth of healthy food.

 

(DeVinney) “so is she going to get the larger size milk, skim milk or is she going to get just the quart size of milk. Can she carry that bag of oranges, or is she going to forge that bag of oranges because it's too heavy."

 

(Joe Collins) "I mean it's hard to get babysitters. I mean you have to keep your kids with you. It's hard walking them back and forth, and then it's freezing outside. I don't want to do that. I mean in most families it’s like that right now. Walking, taking a bus. It’s hard, yeah."

 

(Cleare) When the healthy food runs out midweek, and time is tight, the Collins end up with few good choices.

 

(Joe Collins) “We'll eat healthy if we can, but if it's on the fly, 10 to one, we might stop at a McDonalds somewhere because it's most convenient."

 

(DeVinney) “The odds are you're not going to have a grocery store in your neighborhood, you're going to have a convenient store. That convenient store is going to sell, high caloric high density foods."

 

(Cleare) And foods that come cheap.  Parents in the survey also listed money as a big factor in sometimes choosing the dollar menu over fresh salads.  And when the Collins do go grocery shopping, they’re not just thinking about putting healthy meals on the table.  They’re thinking about the checkout line – and whether there will be enough money left over to pay other bills.

 

(Joe Collins) "Is your RGE bill going to be 100 dollars or 3 or 400 dollars? It depends on what they are going to charge us? If they are going to charge us 3, 4 hundred dollars, I have to keep the heat and lights on, so all that money goes to that bill."

 

(Cleare) But the Collins knew THEIR DIET was LOADED WITH too much FAT AND CALORIES, and that’s part of the reason JALYAH now WEIGHS 78 POUNDS.  So they’re fighting to undo years of bad eating habits."

 

(Jameshia Collins) "Oh it's cute, grab a bag of chips you’ll be alright. You know you'll eat a little bit later. And then you know here go another bag of chips, and then a huggy juice. And okay, let's finally eat and it's too late eating at 8 - 9 o’clock at night, and then you're going straight to sleep."

 

(Joe Collins) "...it's a long learning experience."

 

(Cleare) FOR NEED TO KNOW, I’M CARLET CLEARE"

 

(Rachel Ward) "AND I’M RACHEL WARD.

WHEN YOU TALK TO STUDENTS ABOUT NUTRITION, THEY TALK A GOOD GAME.

 

(Jahbri Shelton and Essence Oliver) "I like applesauce because it's very good, it makes your body strong and you can walk faster.  Because candy and stuff makes you like slow down.”

 

(Ward) ADULTS SAY THE RIGHT THING TOO.

 

(Sharron Marble-Johnson) “It’s really good for you, you know it's healthy and um you need your nutrition.  You want to grow strong. You might want to play basketball or football or something, when you grow up or be cheerleaders or something. You need your strength when you grow up and this the food that gives you strength."

 

(Ward) BUT SOMETIMES REALITY TRUMPS RHETORIC.

 

(Angie Alava and Heegan Saleh) “I’m a very picky person of what I eat.  Like it has to be something good but healthy, but still has to have a good taste to it.  It can’t be something like too squishy and stuff … like applesauce and stuff like that I have to eat healthy stuff like that.  I have picky feelings about food.”

 

(Ward) CHILDREN ARE IN SCHOOL FOR THE MAJORITY OF THEIR DAY, AND SCHOOLS ARE SOMETIMES RESPONSIBLE FOR UP TO 3 OF THEIR MEALS.  BUT WHAT GOES ON AT HOME CAN INFLUENCE THE CHOICES KIDS MAKE AT SCHOOL.

 

(Sharron Marble-Johnson) “I think it starts at home, parents start them out eating them.  If they don’t serve it to them, how can they get used to eating vegetables?  Some of the kids I think never had the vegetables at home and their parents don’t encourage them to at least try.  A lot of parents don’t eat healthy, so how can we teach their kids to eat healthy?”

 

(Ward) AND WHAT HAPPENS IN ALBANY OR WASHINGTON, CAN ALSO AFFECT THE CHOICES KIDS MAKE.

 

(Juliann Zelazny) “My ideal program would be to have them come every day, but we all know in the real world that’s not going to happen.  There’s not space – I share the gym with a gentleman on Monday Wednesday and Friday he's here, he's in another building on Tuesday and Thursday.  So we team teach, which means we have two classes of that space in this space at the same time, so that’s difficult.”

 

(Ward) PHYS ED TEACHER JULIANN ZELAZNY SAYS THERE ARE SOME RULES IN PLACE TO HELP KIDS WARD OFF OBESITY.

 

(Juliann Zelazny) "Right now the district requires K through 4 twice a week for 30 minutes, and 5 and 6 three times a week.  The mandates from the state are 90 minutes for K-4 and 120 minutes for 5 and 6, so the classroom teacher is required to give extra they call it recess time at some point.”

 

(Ward) BUT ZELAZNY SAYS, UNDER STATE RULES, RECESS DOESN’T COUNT AS PHYS ED, SO STUDENTS RARELY GET WHAT’S ACTUALLY REQUIRED BY NEW YORK. THERE’S A SIMILAR DISCONNECT WITH SCHOOL LUNCHES.  LESLIE FOWLER, WITH THE DISTRICT’S LUNCH PROGRAM, SAYS FEDERAL NUTRITION GUIDELINES REQUIRE THAT IN SOME SCHOOLS, FOURTH GRADERS BE SERVED THE SAME PORTIONS AS SENIORS IN HIGH SCHOOL.  SO THAT MEANS A RULE THAT WAS MEANT TO HELP OLDER KIDS GET ENOUGH TO EAT, MAY BE OVERSERVING YOUNGER STUDENTS.

 

(Leslie Fowler) “From a food perspective, we have two possibly three meals a day, a breakfast, a lunch and a snack, to impact the child.  So we want to put the healthiest, most positive options in front of the kid, hope that they’ll make the right choices, knowing that most times in a community like ours, the kids don’t really have access to what we would consider healthy, nutritious foods, and are not familiar with many of the items that we may put in front of them.”

 

(Ward) THE SCHOOLS ARE MAKING AN EFFORT TO TEACH KIDS ABOUT REASONABLE PORTION SIZES, AND TO GIVE THEM HEALTHY OPTIONS.

 

(Sharron Marble-Johnson) “It's great that we get it now, because we used to not get the peas, we never got broccoli, now we got broccoli, the salads ... now it’s really good for them.”

 

(Ward) BUT SCHOOLS CONTINUE TO FIGHT THE SAME OLD BATTLES.  PHYS ED TEACHER JULIANN ZELAZNY SAYS SELF-IMAGE STILL SIDELINES SOME OF HER FEMALE STUDENTS AS THEY HIT PUBERTY.  AND MAKING HEALTHY FOOD TEMPTING CONTINUES TO BE A CHALLENGE FOR LUNCH ROOMS."

 

(Jahbri Shelton and Essence Oliver) “Sometimes the pizza is be all hard and burnt and it break, and you be banging it on the table ... and it be burnt [butt to] … but the pizza, you gonna break your teeth.”

 

NEED TO KNOW’S RACHEL WARD. AND NOW ANOTHER RACHEL, RACHEL PICKERING JOINS US.  SHE IS A PROGRAM ASSOCIATE FOR THE FINGER LAKES HEALTH SYSTEMS AGENCY, AND SHE FOCUSES ON PREVENTING CHILDHOOD OBESITY. Thanks for coming in.

 

(Rachel) You're welcome.

 

(Julie) All jokes aside, it's a two prong problem. Unhealthy eating and inadequate physical activity. It seems like everybody knows what they're supposed to be doing or that there's a problem, the parents the educators the kids we saw, but there's problems getting it done. What are you seeing as the biggest barriers in the city of Rochester for students?

 

(Rachel) I think within the schools it’s difficult. We've put some much emphasis on the no child left behind that we are finding more and more that students are becoming sedentary and issues like we saw within the clip there that recess is becoming more and more infrequent times in which students are bussed within the district is more frequent. Less children walking to school or biking to school. The physical education program which is very valuable is not enough. Those are some of the issues in schools and also tryin to...

 

(Julie) And we should mention, it's not just city schools.

 

(Rachel)Not at all. These are things affected across the county in rural communities and suburban communities and within the city of Rochester.

 

(Julie) That's talking more about the activity side of it. What about the unhealthy eating. I know this is particularly hard. We saw the Collins family and they did have a car at the time but we should mention they had a borrowed car they had taken to do a grocery shopping trip. Most of the time they don't have access to a car. I'm guessing that it's one of the big problems.

 

(Rachel) That's definitely an issue that's facing a lot of families in the community. It's food access. How we can navigate the food system that's here locally. Whether that's a supermarket or a public market or a farmers market for an example. So having access to some of those fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, the less convenient foods, the less prepared foods is certainly a challenge. It takes a lot of time and energy and creativity to try to bring those things home. That way it's reflected in the school setting in some of those nutritious healthy lunches is also at home as well.

 

(Julie) What you're talking about might require a whole culture shift really. People are working two jobs. As we know it's hard to get places. Creativity is hard to do when you've been working all day long on your feet and you want to sit down. What do you tell parents?

 

(Rachel) One of the things that I tell parents is try to plan ahead. I know that it's not easy. When thinking about shopping, the price of food is certainly a concern. If you can buy those bigger sized items like a gallon of milk verses a gallon of soda or a two liter of soda that's clearly a healthier choice. I'm sorry. Can you repeat the question?

 

(Julie) What are some tips that you give to parents to help them overcome things like unsafe neighborhoods no access to healthy foods or very difficult access to healthy foods? What are some of the best things parents can do to help their kids?

 

(Rachel) One of the things is certainly thinking outside the box and preparing meals ahead of time. instead of buying a box of rice, get a bigger bag of rice. You get more for the money. Preparing ahead of time. Freezing meals that maybe you could cook on the weekends and then thaw them out or microwave them when you get home from work and when children get home from school. As far as the physical activity piece, we find that more and more parents are concerned about safety in our neighborhoods. One of the things we can do is very simple. If there is screen time, whether that's TV or computer, or video games, that we can take breaks. There are some very easy things that we can do in our homes to help parents get kids moving and grooving a little more. So when it's commercial time, get up, do jumping jacks, run the stairs, run around the house, pitch in at home cleaning, vacuuming,

 

(Julie) Good luck with that one.

 

(Rachel) I know. Easier said than done.

 

(Julie) As we've seen by those reports and what you've been saying, this is a very complicated problem. It can't be solved by the parents; it can't be solved just by the educators. It requires sort of a community approach. What things are being done in this community to tackle the issue?

 

(Rachel) Well, one of the major things that I'm involved with is the healthy kids initiative. The healthy kids initiative stands for healthy eating and active living through policy and practice initiates for kids. It's a lot of remember and a lot to say so we call ourselves healthy kids. What we're really doing is looking at policies and practices that can really change the environment and systems in which individual behavior change can happen. So looking at the school food environment, what can we do as a community that can influence those healthy eating behaviors between children? Looking at the breakfast and lunch program. Looking what served on the line in addition to the meal program. What sort of fundraisers are happening within the school and then also looking in the community. What can we do within a policy context that can influence those behaviors? If it's a matter of putting up more street lighting or traffic coming signs or influencing to talk to neighbors so that there's more eyes on the street. Those are some ways that the healthy kids initiative are really looking to change the system through advocacy and looking at policy opportunities that would promote healthier weight status with kids.

 

(Julie) Have you had any success so far? What are your goals to get where you need to be?

 

(Rachel) We've had quite a bit of success.         In our infancy stages we launched at the end of 2008 some of the work we've been involved in these past year has been in the school food environment so we had some additional monies allocated to the city school district budget, for example, $2 million for increased capacity for their central kitchen to prepare more appealing more nutritious foods.

 

(Julie) And I saw salad on there.

 

(Rachel) Salads. Exactly.

 

(Julie) We're out of time, but thank you so much and as you know, we have a forum coming up. This is RACHEL PICKERING OF THE FINGER LAKES HEALTH SYSTEMS AGENCY, and she was at the recording of this forum ON SUNDAY it will air, I’LL BE HOSTING it, it’s AN HOUR LONG SPECIAL ON CHILDHOOD OBESITY CALLED HEALTHY YOU, A FORUM ON CHILDHOOD OBESITY. And also on Sunday, an embattled Governor David Paterson steps out of the fray.

 

(Governor Paterson) Today I am announcing that I am ending my campaign for Governor of the State of New York. It has becoming increasingly clear to me in the last days that I cannot run for office and try to manage the state's business at the same time, and right now, New York State needs a leader who can devote full time to this service.

 

(Julie) Watch New York Now, Sunday evening at 6:30pm for analysis of the Governor's decision. You've been watching Need To Know.

 

(Music)

 

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