I know what’s best for my children’s education 

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I have always taught my children to use their voice. And recently, I showed them the power of using your voice when I traveled to Albany to join 200 New York public charter parents for School Choice Week. I met with several state Assembly members to tell them that I know what is best for my children, and that means sending all four of my children to Rochester Prep Schools, part of the Uncommon Schools charter network. 

Leigha Gordon

My 17-year-old son, Timothy, is the one who paved the way for the rest of our public charter journey. When Timothy was a third grader at a Rochester public school, my husband and I were frequently called to the principal’s office because he had been categorized as a problem child. Teachers and staff told me my child did not listen to instructions and was unwilling to do the work. One teacher even told my child, “I’ll bust you in the head till the white meat shows.” When I confronted that teacher, she said it was just a joke. None of this was a joke to me. I took my son out of that school as soon as I could. 

I enrolled Timothy at Rochester Prep’s Brooks campus for fourth grade. There, the teachers and staff took the time to get to know my son and dig deeper into what was behind his poor performance. Together, we discovered that my son had cataracts in both eyes. He wasn’t doing his homework because he could barely see. We also discovered he had trouble hearing. He wasn’t following the teacher’s instructions because he couldn’t hear. The team at Rochester Prep took the time to care. 

Today, Timothy wears a hearing aid, and after getting cataract surgery, he has no problem with homework. He has been accepted to four colleges and dreams of becoming an entrepreneur one day. My other three children also excel at school, even if they don’t always love wearing uniforms. Everyone at Rochester Prep knows my name, and I know every one of my children’s teachers. We communicate often about where my children are excelling and what they need to work on in the coming months to get to the next level. 

So, when I hear whispers in the halls of the Capitol building in Albany that charters are taking money away from public schools, I get upset. If it weren’t for Rochester Prep, my son would still be labeled a problem instead of finding a way for him to succeed. I’ll tell any legislator who wants to hear it that charters are also public schools, free, and open to all, and they support families who want options for their children. Our elected leaders need to understand that charters, educating more than 180,000 students in New York alone, are part of the educational fabric of this state, and they give parents like me an alternative to failing schools. 

New York spends an average of $26,571 per public school student, and public charters nationwide get 81 cents for every dollar a district school receives, though there are fluctuations from year to year. Yet, my public charter poured every resource they had to ensure my children could learn and grow. 

Whether it is in Albany or the streets of Rochester, you’ll always see me wearing Rochester Prep swag proudly. My children deserve a quality education that prepares them for the real world, and I will fight as hard as I can to make that possible. I have a voice, and I am going to use it. 

Leigha Gordon is a parent at Rochester Prep. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

9 thoughts on “I know what’s best for my children’s education 

  1. According to Stanford, the RCSD is dead last in math and ELA (reading and writing) academic growth among the nation’s largest 200 cities. Yet the RCSD spends over 2 1/2 times the national average per student and every audit reveals massive financial waste. Worse of all, care for students is a four-letter word in the district, as Ms. Gordon’s son found out. The culture of fear and intimidation starting with the school board and detailed by the Distinguished Educator has intimidated the many teachers and staff who do care for our children into caring quietly, in secret. The charter schools are lifeboats that parents save their children (almost 30% of Rochester’s students) from the abusive district. A district which actively works to ensure children growing up in impoverished homes will never learn to read or do math proficiently. The board and the state are starving the charters for funding – basically burning the lifeboats which take the children to safe and caring charter learning environments. The board and our state leaders are Democrats – but they are Pre 1950 Southern Democrats. Frederick Douglass would label them drivers of illiteracy. Our children need more charter schools and need those charters to be funded adequately. Charter students now receive less than half the district funding. Ms. Gordon, thank you for your letter!

  2. Somebody ought to tell Rochester Board of Education president Cynthia Elliott, and Board Commissioners Maloy, Simmons, and Santiago (all of who have spoken publicly in opposition to local charter schools about this article), especially and particularly president Elliott who has said (publicly) that “charter schools are the biggest hustle going. People have found that they can make money. And this is the way they’re doing it. This is about people making money, and not educating Black kids, and I’m not telling you what I heard. I’m telling you what I know. They don’t care about Black and brown kids. This is about getting the money.”


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  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I agree that Charter Schools can be the best educational approach for our Rochester City children. Thank goodness so many children are able to enroll in Charter Schools and parents have alternative to the RCSD which has proven for 30 plus years their inability to educate our City school children.

  4. Very interesting article. I can’t help but wonder if this parent truly knew her son how did this child get into school without having the parents notice that he couldn’t see and he was having trouble hearing.? How did this child go through regular pediatrician check ups without the health care professionals notice lack of vision and hearing? There is something wrong here and it was not totally the school system. I fully support the parent with regard to the horrible comment made by the teacher. Totally unnecessary.

    • Dear Ms. Hopkins: You seem to be doing a great job of blaming the victims here which is the prevailing excuse the district uses for its fundamental failures.

    • Linda Hopkins, it is TOTALLY the fault of the RCSD and the RCSB. TOTALLY! I have been advocating for the urban school district for 16 years now. I’m still doing what I can and I live in Aiken, SC now. Let me say it one more time for you… all kids have innate skills and or gifts, ALL. It is the K-12 educational journey that should help these kids find those skills/gifts. They brag about East High. Nothing to brag about. They spend over $30,000.00 per pupil. And, if East High is so successful why not adopt or include all the other urban places of education. You want to talk about DEI,…..there is nothing equal about some kids graduating and most dropping out. And then there is Adam Urbanski. That individual made himself a millionaire on the backs of educational failure. Last but not least, you think the UR is doing the city, urban education a favor? It was the money. You would think that the Rochester area Colleges and universities would help out. They are money machines that only care about the bottom line. The UR lives within spitting distance of the poverty in Rochester. Either they don’t know how to provide answers for the RCSD or they don’t care. That’s where we are today. Placing the blame on a pediatrician checkup is disgusting. Those parents fought for a better education for their kids. They finally found it in the Charter School. GOOD FOR THEM. Semper Fi.

  5. An uplifting story. Charter schools are a bargain for the taxpayer. Far from draining money from the district, the district gets more money per pupil when a student leaves for a charter school and is funded at a far lower rate (and the charter schools don’t get free buildings the way district schools do. I like to think of it as repurposing public money to a better use.

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