Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr. said at an appearance at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus that better education can link the residents of The Bronx to the world-class institutions that already call it home.
The second of the Fordham Graduate School of Education’s Borough President Speakers Series brought Diaz, who became borough president in April 2009 to Keating First Auditorium, where he declared that he would push hard to reduce poverty in The Bronx , a chronic problem in the borough.
“You have to ask yourself the question, ‘Why is this the case, when the infrastructure in the borough is far superior than the other urban area that are at the top of that list of poverty rates?” he said.
In particular, he cited top-flight medical and educational institutions like Fordham, Albert Einstein Medical College and Montifiore Medical Center.
“There’s so much potential, and we’ve come such a long way, and if we want to address this issue of poverty and unemployment rates, then we have to start creating jobs, and make sure people who are developing them in The Bronx do so by employing Bronxites and also by hiring and using Bronx businesses as vendors and sub contractors in their developments,” he said.
“But we can’t begin to have that conversation unless we start to address education, and unless we really start to look at the drop out rates.”
Proof of his dedication can be seen in the fact that 56 percent of capital expenditures go to education under his watch. In previous years, he said much of that money had been directed toward development projects.
The borough has a long way to go though. As an example, Diaz noted that of the 13,500 eighth graders in The Bronx who graduated in June, only 334 were admitted to prestigious high schools like the Bronx High School of Science. In fact, he said, that school currently has only 50 Bronx residents enrolled there.
“I dare say that there are individuals going to Ivy League schools who have gone to the Bronx High School of Science, and they’re prouder to say I went to The Bronx High School of Science,” he said.
“I don’t understand how we’re not equipping our kids so they can benefit from the quality of those specialized schools.”
Diaz laid out four areas he said should be improved, including early childhood education, mentoring, early warning systems for failing students and federal funding.
When asked by a student what he’d do to encourage parents to get more involved, he said the Department of Education needed to do more to give them the right tools.
“When parents do go to meetings, there’s nobody giving them adequate information on the school funding formula, on what’s happening with the school building, what’s going to happen next year, capital funding. When the D.O.E. makes decisions, sometimes principals don’t know what their decisions are. You have parent coordinators, which are great in theory, but the D.O.E. doesn’t give the principal enough resources so they can give parent coordinators the ability to reach out to the parents the way they should,” he said.
“They can’t afford to give the coordinator stamps, money for support staff, stipend so that someone can come in from Fordham University and help the parent coordinator, so they can afford to buy something as simple as donuts or coffee so that when you have a meeting, that parents at least have a bite to eat.”