ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester City School District Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small is leaving the district.

According to a note sent to RCSD staff Wednesday by Board of Education President Cynthia Elliott, Myers-Small and the board were working on a separation agreement when the news was “prematurely shared.”

“I want to assure you that a seamless transition is one of our top priorities, as we are preparing to open schools in just over a month,” Elliott wrote.

Dr. Myers-Small joined the RCSD in May of 2020, shepherding the district through the bulk of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was previously the superintendent of the Brockport Central School District and the New York State Assistant Commissioner of School Reform and Innovation.

RCSD has had many superintendents since the mid-1990s. Here’s a list of all former superintendents of the school district since 1994.

  • Lesli Myers-Small (2020-present)
  • Terry Dade (2019-2020)
  • Barbara Deane-Williams (2016-2019)
  • Linda Cimusz (January 18, 2016 – July 2016)
  • Daniel Lowengard, interim (Janunary 1st-15th 2016)
  • Bolgen Vargas (May 16, 2011 – December 31, 2015)
  • Jean-Claude Brizard (January, 1 2008 – May 13, 2011)
  • William Cala, interim (early 2007 – December 31, 2007)
  • Clifford Janey (1995 – August 31, 2002)
  • Loretta Johnson, acting (1994–1995)
  • Manny Rivera (1992–1994, September 1, 2002 – April 30, 2007)

Previous reporting on Terry Dade:

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester City School District’s new superintendent has officially started his first week on the job. Terry Dade has been meeting with school officials and working on plans for the upcoming school year.

This all comes just after the mayor’s call for state takeover of RCSD. The referendum will be voted on by the public in November.

Dade hasn’t met with the mayor yet. He said the meeting is in the process of being scheduled.

“I would love to hear her perspective on what the district could utilize with progressive resources, partnerships, and strategies to move the district forward while also sharing my perspective on what we need to do together to move the district forward. So I’d rather it not be centered around a takeover,” said Dade.

Dade’s first priority is to change the narrative at RCSD. He wants to eliminate the focus on negativity and focus on setting high expectations for students and staff.

“How do you hold people accountable and able for this work, how do you engage in this work as a true partner and how do you focus in on students seeing themselves and seeing a narrative of hope and success and fulfilling dreams, versus adults pointing fingers at each other and talking about all the negative aspects of our school system,” he said.

Dade also plans to work on the relationship between central office staff and staff at the individual schools. Increasing graduation rates is also on the list. He said he’ll look at improving attendance and student performance in ninth grade to ensure more students cross the stage with a diploma.

“I know something I’m looking at right away is absenteeism rates. You cannot provide support for students if they’re not in school, so looking at our chronic absenteeism rate what are we going to do to truly engage students in school. I’ve also looked closely at that eighth grade to ninth grade transition year. You can really predict what a student’s going to look like and what their challenges will be just by examining their ninth grade year,” Dade said.

Dade said he realizes all of this will take longer than his three-year contract. He plans to stay longer to see the project through.

“We have a lot of work to do, this is a complex system so I know it’s gonna take five to ten years to really start to see some of the fantastic gains that we know we can accomplish as a family, so I don’t expect to be here in the short term no matter what is going on around our schools.”

Dade also told News 8 the district is using the final report issued by Dr. Jaime Aquino, the state-appointed distinguished educator. Dr. Aquino left in June after his year-long contract was up. The district hopes to have an action plan finished by the end of the summer.

Dade said he’s met with board members and it’s been successful so far.

Board president Van White told News 8 the board has plans with Dade, including retreats. He also said he’s gotten lots of positive feedback about Dade from others as well.

On Dade’s departure:

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester City School District Superintendent Terry Dade has accepted a job in the Hudson Valley, officials confirmed late Thursday.

News broke Wednesday that Dade was contemplating a departure from the district amid a budget crisis with an estimated $87 million deficit. Dade joined RCSD last summer and in less than a year on the job the district has underwent hundreds of staffing cuts, student protests, and more conflict all while financial woes continue wage on.

MORE | How RCSD got here: Timeline of events in district’s budget crisis

Dade’s new job is superintendent of the Cornwall Central School District in Cornwall, New York, according to a letter from the Cornwall Central School District School Board. The Orange County town is on the west bank of the Hudson River about 60 miles north of New York City.

In the letter from the school board, wrote:

“As the Board embarked upon this search, we asked our staff and community to guide
our work by responding to a survey. Over 400 individuals responded to the survey and
shared that our next superintendent should:

  • Have exceptional communication skills
  • Be visible in our community
  • Lead by example
  • Be honest, trustworthy and caring
  • Have a strong knowledge of curriculum and instruction, while also being fiscally
    savvy

When the Board of Education first met Mr. Dade, we knew we had a match.”

For RCSD, it’s back to the drawing board for a district that is facing difficult fiscal times. Although New York state has committed some money to help with the budget shortfall, the amount is less than expected as the state faces its economic battle against COVID-19.

RCSD principals demonstrated Thursday outside the district’s central offices in support of Dade, pleading him to stay, but Dade said Wednesday the inability to work cohesively with the district’s school board was driving him out the door.

Dade said he was at his breaking point after trying to balance the budget for what he called “probably the most difficult district in the country.”

“This has been the most challenging and taxing year of my professional career,” Dade said.

Adam Interviews Barbara Deane-Williams:

Adam: What’s the message for parents this year?

RCSD Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams: I think the message we have this year is we are so excited to welcome our students and our families back. We’re a great, great school district with many opportunities for students. We’ve worked very hard this summer with a number of schools coming back online, so we’re excited about those openings. We also have a large number of community schools this year that have lots of partnerships with community agencies. Things for families and students and really the opportunity for every student to come and have the quality education that they deserve. We’re also especially excited about our new bilingual academy opening and some new programs with our students with disabilities as well.

Adam: What’s your reaction to the possibility that more schools might be put under receivership?

Deane-Williams: What that means is that school gets a higher level of staffing. And we get to work very closely with the families, with the students and with the staff. So we have chiefs of schools that work with each school and the receivership chief actually works with less schools so that there can be more focused support. We look at receivership as an opportunity. While we would choose not to be in receivership and we certainly do everything we can to make sure we are not in receivership, that designation actually provides us a platform to go in and make some substantive changes to the curriculum. It also provides us the opportunity to go in and use innovative curriculum strategies and instructional strategies before we scale up to a district-wide initiative, we’re able to use our receivership schools more as platforms for innovation. Adam: You look at all the charter schools and the Designated Educator, is there a feeling within the administration that perhaps there’s less control of the district?

Deane-Williams: I think what we’re seeing is an opportunity for expanded partnership. If you look at the fact that you can’t run the RCSD or change the RCSD without an entire team, without the entire community and we’re working very hard and we’re very pleased with the Rochester community’s involvement, with our parents, with our partners, with our agencies, with our faith-based partners, but having fresh eyes and having an opportunity to have those that have experience in other urban districts just come in and give us feedback, we see that as very helpful.

Adam: You took some steps after the Trevyan Rowe case, when attendance is taken, when parents should be alerted, what can parents expect going into this school year in regard to that?

Deane-Williams: They can expect a very personal approach. We wanted to ensure that our staff knew the importance of taking attendance, knowing every student by face and name, being careful in checking and reporting. We also wanted to build redundancies in the system where you have checks and balances. That being said we want to encourage parents, if you know your child is going to be absent from school or going to be late to school, we would like you to call the school and let us know. That would be extremely helpful. Attendance will be taken in our schools this year within the first 15 minutes and then we will be starting our phone calls to families after an hour. There will be a combination of robocalls and personal outreach, but what would be very helpful to us is if families would call us as well.

Adam: The district got rid of Special Ed administrators last year. It then reversed course. Has the district rehired for those positions?

Deane-Williams: The CASE positions have been refilled, but in addition, we’ve done additional training and support for all staff. We wanted to make sure that our teachers and our counselors and our social workers and our school administrators and district leaders are serving our students with disabilities with high-quality curriculum as close to the regular classroom as possible with full services and support. We’re aware we have students in a self-contained environment who we believe can be in a general education environment so that’s the focus you’re going to see us take this year.

Adam: Do you think anything was lost in that initial transition and reversal? 

Deane-Williams: I think what’s lost in any transition is speed and accuracy. Anytime you have transition in leadership whether it’s a principal or teacher or an executive director or a transition, there’s going to be a lack of intensive focus and we simply cannot afford in this district not be moving with some level of speed. While I would have chosen that that would have gone differently we now know that we need to make sure we manage change carefully, that we have specific project management plans and that we spend time explaining upfront why it’s a necessary that everybody works with students with disabilities and their families.