Jessica McNair, co-founder of Opt Out CNY, recently applied to serve on the NYS Board of Regents as representative of the 5th Judicial District. She interviewed with members of the NYS Assembly on Wednesday February 3rd, 2016. You can watch her interview here (at 2 hours 44 minutes). Below is a message sent to the legislators in attendance at the interview, as well as the text of her opening remarks.
Thank you for the opportunity to interview for a seat on the Board of Regents representing the 5th Judicial District. I appreciate the seriousness with which you take the task of appointing a new member to the Board. Never before has it been more important to nominate an individual who will speak truthfully and act thoughtfully in representing the varied needs of the students, teachers, and schools of our region and state. Decisions made by the next Regent must be based on proven strategies grounded in research and always in the best interest of children.
As I shared last week, I feel that I would bring balance to the Board as I am a parent of public school students, an educator currently serving in a public school, and a parent activist that has the support of the public and a proven track record of speaking honestly and advocating for children.
Opening Statement by Jessica McNair, Candidate, Board of Regents JD5
Good afternoon. My name is Jessica McNair and I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to interview. I’m a resident of New Hartford NY, mother to two school aged children who attend public schools, a public school educator and a product of NYS public schools. As you’ll know from my resume I am a proud graduate of the SUNY at Geneseo and the University at Albany and I hold permanent teaching certificates in elementary and special education. I have over 7 years teaching experience in the New Hartford Central School District and I am an active member of my local teachers association, NYSUT Local 08-100. One of my greatest honors is serving on the steering committee of the NYSAPE and it is my involvement with parent-led grassroots organizations of our region and state that led me here today.
As I’ve traveled across the 5th Judicial District meeting with parents and sharing information about the Regents reform agenda, I have been inspired by the stories I’ve heard of outstanding educators who are making a positive difference in the lives of our local students each day and I have learned that parents really like their children’s teachers and value their neighborhood schools. What parents do not like, however, are the consequences of an agenda in which they had no say, especially since they continue to see their children suffering as daily instruction in science, art, history and recess continue to disappear. Parents know that all this is a result of our schools bowing to the pressure of a state led, test and punish agenda that continues to erroneously tout assessments as an answer to issues in our schools. It’s not surprising, then, that parents are increasingly frustrated that legislators continue to chip away at local control of our schools, set up our most impoverished schools for failure and lay out the welcome mat for state takeover of our schools. I have lobbied the Senate and Assembly, rallied with parents and teachers, attended forums and listening sessions, and even provided expert testimony as a technical advisor to Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force all to see our children continue to pay the price for failure of the adults.
In fact, when the CC Task Force issued its report, I knew that I could not remain silent. The report has been dubbed by many as the Task Farce-and for good reason. The recommendations in the report are broad sweeping statements with little to no practical solutions. The report fails to identify the root cause of the issues at hand, and fails to identify alternatives or solutions. I am embarrassed that my name is associated with the report, a report that is mocking and disrespectful to the students, teachers, and parents of NYS. I am not, however, embarrassed that I continue to seek out solutions. Every child in NYS deserves a school that provides a rich curriculum, excellent teachers, has an abundance of resources and excellent facilities. There are two obstacles that stand in our way.
The first is the Education Transformation Act of 2015. It is not enough to toss this vile law over the the Board of Regents and expect that the atrocities within can be resolved with regulations. In fact, it is a law-and as soon as one wants to challenge the regulations in court, the law will prevail. I am not fooled-without a repeal of the Education Transformation Act, the rest of our efforts are in vain.
The second obstacle is an overwhelming lack of trust. Parents, educators, students and the general public have lost trust that their well-being and success matters to anyone in this room. We have lost trust in a Governor who claims to support teachers while also aiming to end the monopoly of public education. We have have no reason to even begin to trust a Commissioner who already failed one state, arrived here committed to a set of unproven standards and a regimen of testing and is willing to put charter schools ahead of publics, all before she even had a chance to get to know the people she serves. We have lost trust in our Education Department, decimated and silenced at the hand of an autocratic Chancellor and her hand-selected, self-funded reform fellows. We have lost trust in the elected officials who voted with a heavy heart to help destroy our public schools.
Without the trust of the public, and a repeal of the Education Transformation Act, it does not matter what test vendor you select, how long it is, or how many NYS teachers rubber stamped it. Without the trust of the public, moving forward towards solutions will be next to impossible. I am here today because I feel that I am the right candidate to help the Board of Regents restore that trust. My experience as a parent organizer, my time in the classroom, and my role as a mother provides the perspective that is so desperately needed in Albany.