Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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When something important needs to be done, and you are uniquely able to do it, you have a duty to do it.




               That is a moral obligation, a circumstance of service above self, a situation in which your personal interests are subordinate to the greater good. Duty is what guides honorable people and blesses successful societies.


               Duty is something Carmine Peluso wouldn’t recognize if it jumped up and bit him on the ass.


               That was demonstrated yesterday when he accepted 33 pieces of silver from the Churchville-Chili Central School District to walk away from a once-in-a-generation opportunity to save the 24,000 students of the Rochester City School District.


               In a city where the students have been disproportionately failed by adults in their lives, the tall white guy with the beard just added one more.


               For some people, education is a calling. For others, it’s a golden parachute. Yesterday, Carmine Peluso pulled the ripcord.


               And betrayed a city and its children.


               Because of all the ills facing the city of Rochester, none is greater than its failed school system. For a generation and more, the children of the Flower City have gone to schools which are among the worst in America, where the challenges of urban education have been compounded by the incompetence of the adults in charge. First in the name of education reform and then in crusades of racial revenge the district has been driven into the ground, damning the prospects of the children doomed by living within its boundaries.


               It has been a district devoted to the vanities of adults instead of the interests of children, where big paychecks to the right kind of people have been more important than teaching students how to read and write and do something with their lives other than go to prison or the welfare office.



               The greatest illustration of that failure has been the revolving door on the superintendent’s office, where a numbing succession of vain incompetents have been paid staggering amounts of money for being absolute idiots. They checked off demographic boxes or they were friends of powerful people, but they were never up to the task.


               This immorally and heartbreakingly stole futures from children, denying them access to a useful education – the one sure ladder upward in American society. That all but doomed them, and the city they call home. When the schools don’t work, the city they serve can’t work. And the pledge of mayor after mayor to fix education in Rochester went unfulfilled because of the unending failures of Central Office.


               It was hogs at the trough, not scholars in the classroom. It became so failed the state had to send in overseers to unsuccessfully try to unravel the incompetence and malevolence.


               For 30 years, the district has been run as a scam, to enrich adults and ignore children.


               And then came Carmine Peluso. Not just him, but the combination of him and school board President Cynthia Elliott. She came into her own as a leader and the district had two strong people pulling the cart – in the same direction and in a way that made sense.


               And they instituted a two-step process to make school school again. First, right-size the district, reducing the number of buildings to fit the number of students, and then – that essential step taken – organize schools and actual instruction so that Rochester gave its students at least the same chance that students in other big cities had.


               The first step got done. Carmine Peluso and Cynthia Elliott got the board to ignore the grandstanding opposition and vote through reorganization.


               And parents, teachers and students began to embrace an intoxicating mix of hope and confidence, the belief that this superintendent actually knew what he was doing, that real improvement in student learning could happen and that the district was, at long last, about to turn the corner.


               It was palpable.


               Not just a dream, but a demonstrated ability.


               This guy can get us through.


               The futures of these students and the students behind them can actually be blessed by a school experience that serves them instead of betraying them.


               Stability had arrived, there was a grownup in charge, the revolving door had stopped.


               Board President Cynthia Elliott thought they had him for six or seven more years, long enough to complete the journey, institutionalize the changes, save the children.


               And then the sucker punch.


               The betrayal of duty. The reminder that the lives of Rochester children don’t mean shit to the adults who get the big checks. The sad discovery that Carmine Peluso is just like the rest of them.

One more pimp, getting his and getting gone.

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