Rochester City Council has approved Mayor Lovely Warren’s request for a referendum on a state takeover of the Rochester City School District.  By a vote of 5-3 (with one abstention) council authorized the request.  

The referendum would not mean a takeover, but it would indicate voter preference on a takeover.  The Mayor has been a fierce critic of the school district, which is hobbled by poor student test scores, low graduation rates, and high absenteeism.  Under a takeover, the elected school board would be replaced by a state-appointed board.  Such a move would have to be approved by state lawmakers.

Warren says City Council’s decision on the referendum was about listening to the public and parents. 

“If we can’t ensure that the children of our city have a quality education…then what are we doing?” Adding, “I think that’s what the council understood, that’s what we all understand,” says Warren. 

Jacklyn Ortiz, Molly Clifford, and Elaine Spaull voted “no” on the measure. While the remainder, Michael Patterson, Willie Lightfoot, Mitchell Gruber, Malik Evans, and Loretta Scott voted “yes”. LaShay Harris abstained from the vote. 

About two dozen protestors showed up to voice concerns over the now passed referendum on state control, which is essentially a poll on voter’s preferences. One former city teacher says in other parts of the nation, state control shows little results. 

“So there’s really no point in it. Either that, or mayoral control has not worked,” says Dan Drmacich.

If a takeover ever materialized, the elected school board would be replaced by a state-appointed board. Elizabeth McGriff and others feel state control could take away the voices of parents. She’s for staying the current course. 

“I think the current way is to re-look at what we’re doing and change it so it will work,” says McGriff.

 “The only thing the state brings to the table is chaos and more mental anguish,” says Bill Booker. 

Yet, the Mayor says passing this motion now means a voice for parents and children. “The citizens of this city need to be able to make the decision as it pertains to the future of our children,” she says. 

The public referendum is scheduled for November 5.