RCSD students hold 'State of the Students' address

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A group of RCSD students said they would hold a 'State of the Students' address Monday afternoon in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address that was held last week. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - With their school district in the middle of a financial crisis, students in the Rochester City School District came together to address some of their concerns.

A group of RCSD students held a 'State of the Students' address Monday afternoon in response to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address that was held last week.

East High eighth-grader Sarah Adams says she and her fellow classmates were left out of the governor's plans for 2020.

"We expected the worst and learned the worst," said Adams. "That our voices and our education were not a priority for him."

Adams and her classmates are among those headed to Albany on Tuesday to push for money from state legislators, primarily to keep more teachers from losing their jobs. The trip is being organized by the Rochester Teachers Association.

"We don’t need teachers being cut anymore," said Adams.

Board member Natalie Sheppard is joining in on the trip. She says the district, likes others around the state, is owed millions in what's called foundation aid.

"Hopefully our legislature understands this is a statewide issue in regards to public education, but that Rochester needs specific support, and are they going to be willing to do that?" Sheppard said.

Teachers will also be headed to Albany tomorrow. Edison Tech teacher Rakia Hardaway says she's going there to try and keep more teachers from being cut in the coming months.

"Even though we may not be in our classroom that day for our students, we’re fighting so we are there for the rest of the year with our students," said Hardaway.

Hardaway says the first week back after the cuts went in effect was tough on teachers and students in her school. She says she and others are still concerned about additional teacher layoffs in the coming months.

"We have kids walking around asking us, ‘Are you going to be safe? When are you going to leave?'" said Hardaway, "Also for us, we don’t know if we’re going to have a job."

Nearly 100 teachers lost their jobs on Jan. 1, 2020. The cuts were part of an effort to close the district's projected $64 million budget gap.

Adam Urbanski, president of the teachers' union, says mid-year cuts and the shuffling of teaching positions has affected nearly 8,000 students and could result in setbacks in the classroom. He says 90 percent of the layoffs impacted elementary level teachers.

Superintendent Terry Dade said he's hopeful the state will come through with more funding to help offset the staggering deficit. He has said roughly $25 million is needed to prevent more cuts.

Neither the district nor Cuomo's office commented on the rally or lobbying efforts.