East High teachers prepare for U of R takeover

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC)- The University of Rochester has officially taken over East High School. 195 teachers, many who are new to the school, are now preparing for their first school year as what many would call a grand experiment.

East High was failing resulting in low attendance, high suspension and a low graduation rate. The school was on a path to close before U of R stepped in. This merger is the first of its kind in Rochester and those involved are hopeful the university can help turn the school around. They elieve it will be a milestone in urban education.

The school’s reinvention resulted in a reorganization into a lower school for grades 6 through 8 and an upper school for grades 9 through 12. Teachers and staff all had to reapply for their jobs. Approximately 80 teachers were re-hired from East and another 65 were hired from around the district. 

Marlene Blocker, East High’s new “lower school” principal told News 8 she is ready to turn the school around.

“I was excited about the opportunity to impact more kids and thrilled about the team that they created too to transform urban education,” Blocker said. “There is a longer school day in place so more instructional limits will help. There is a family group embedded everyday to allow kids to have a connection with adults. There is 10 students to one adult to foster that relationship that builds confidence in students.”

Van White, the Rochester City School Board President is optimistic about East High’s future.

“Last year, only one parent chose east high school as a # 1 choice, do you know it was the reverse this year?” White said. “Overwhelmingly, parents were opting to have their kids go to this new East High School, U of R collaborative that sounds like a charter school. You have staff that want to be there and family that want to be there.”

Cynthia Elliot, Vice President for the City School Board questions whether the partnership will succeed. She said at a board meeting Wednesday night that some of the former East High teachers who were re-hired made questionable comments.

“I really do have reservations about whether this is going to succeed,” Elliot said. “Unless leadership can go in there and move people out of the way who are not 100- percent supportive for children in that school.”

The new Superintendent Steve Uebbing said he believes in all the people he hired but if someone doesn’t meet expectations they will be let go after three years.

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