ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester City School District officially has its new superintendent and she will be going straight to work.
Dr. Lesli Myers-Small was approved by the school board Monday. Earlier this month, sources close to the hiring process said Dr. Myers-Small was set for the position, but it wasn’t official until Monday.
Dr. Myers-Small is the former superintendent for the Brockport Central School District. Back in December, Dr. Myers-Small left Brockport to become State Assistant Commissioner of School Reform and Innovation, a job designed to work to bring change to low performing districts through the state, including RCSD.
Dr. Myers-Small will become the first African-American woman to hold the title of RCSD superintendent in a permanent capacity, and she’s set to start her work Tuesday.
Dr. Myers-Small said Monday that the first order of business is passing the 2020-2021 budget. She also said her focus will include how to open schools safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, holding a graduation ceremony for the class of 2020, establishing a good working relationship with the board of education and pushing back standardized testing for students in grades 3-8 for a year.
The RCSD superintendent position became last month when Terry Dade accepted the superintendent position in the Cornwall Central School District in New York state’s Hudson Valley region.
When Dr. Myers-Small starts her work Tuesday, she will be the new leader of a district facing an estimated $87 million budget deficit.
“I’m ready to get right to work. I’m excited and you will absolutely, unequivocally get my best,” says Dr. Myers-Small.
She says it was time to come home and give back to those who mean the most. “This really isn’t about me. This is about the 25,000-plus students I will be serving,” she adds.
And Dr. Myers-Small wants to get those students back in school. She says she will work with all levels of State, County and City government to get things rolling. Academic achievement is at the top of her list. “So, working with the different entities as well as Dr. Mendoza to figure out how to safely and successfully open schools,” she says.
Outgoing Superintendent Terry Dade said in his resignation letter one of the reasons he decided to leave was the lack of teamwork with the board. Dr. Myers-Small says now more than ever during this pandemic and financial crisis, both sides will have to come together.
“We’re at a point where can’t afford to fight, we can’t afford to disagree,” she says.
Dr. Myers-Small says even with all the challenges facing the district, she’s ready. “So I truly believe that this is the exact right time for me to take the helm,” she says.
It was announced Friday that RCSD’s Chief Financial Officer, Robert Franklin, would be leaving the district after five months on the job to return to the same position within Monroe County.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren released this statement Monday:
“Dr. Lesli Myers-Small is a tremendous educator and has spent her career dedicated to improving the lives of children. I know Dr. Myers-Small, if truly empowered to do so, can improve our school district, and therefore, our city. I am equally heartened that she will be the first woman of color to serve our community in this role. This milestone is worthy of recognition and celebration. While my longstanding concerns regarding our school district remain and must be addressed. Tonight, I congratulate Dr. Myers-Small on her accomplishment and welcome her to our efforts to ensure every child in Rochester receives the education they deserve.”
New York State Assemblyman Harry Bronson released this statement Tuesday:
“Great news for our Rochester families and students, as Dr. Lesli Myers-Small has officially been announced as the Rochester City School District’s new superintendent. Dr. Myers-Small will be the first woman of color to hold the permanent position of superintendent and her experience turning around low-performing schools and fostering them into positive learning environments makes her exceptionally qualified for this role.
“While this is a step in the right direction, we still need to appoint an independent monitor immediately. The monitor will rein in the School Board and provide academic and fiscal oversight to get our schools back on the right track. The alternative — eliminating the board and turning control of our schools over to the state — is not acceptable. Control of our schools must remain in the hands of local residents, not Albany bureaucrats. The only way to effectively bring about change is for families, educators and local leaders to work together to ensure our kids have every opportunity to succeed.”