NY state report reveals safety and culture issues at RCSD

Local News

A progress report released Friday by Rochester’s distinguished educator — a consultant assigned by the state to help Rochester turn around its results — says safety issues continue to be a concern in the district.

In his report, that detailed changes between November and January, Dr. Jaime Aquino provided updates to different areas targeted for approval in his assessment report released last year.

Under a section labeled “Operations” Dr. Aquino says the district has made some strides in tightening security, but there continue to be problems.

Dr. Aquino explains, “However, students continue to go missing from schools. During this quarter, at least five incidents have been reported. Incidents included students getting on the buses but not arriving at schools or homes, and walking out of schools.”

The update comes on the heels of a report from the state that found the district failed in multiple ways, including in security, in the death of Trevyan Rowe — the Rochester student who left school last March and was later found dead in the Genesee River.

The report, from the attorney general and state Education Department, found there was a lack of attention by those charged with watching students get off buses at Rowe’s school.

On the day his disappeared, Rowe took the bus to class, but got off, walked away from the entrance and into a wooded area near the school without being noticed by the bus driver or other staff members.

Aside from security concerns, Dr. Aquino also says that the Board of Education continues to involve themselves in day-to-day district operations for the district. In his assessment report last year, Dr. Aquino found that the board would often overreach their responsibilities and take on management roles in the district. He recommended that the board back off and let the superintendent handle day-to-day issues.

But, in Friday’s report, Dr. Aquino says nothing has changed.

“Some staff members contend that commissioners continue to involve themselves in the District’s day-to-day operations, taking their concerns to staff members, and bypassing the Superintendent,” Dr. Aquino writes.

Dr. Aquino adds there continues to be a “culture of fear” that has “crippled” the district. “There has not been any significant progress made in addressing this culture of fear. Staff reports that it continues to this day. These behaviors encourage a culture that depresses staff morale, inhibits innovation, delays projects, and saps energy.”

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