Rochester leaders say superintendent candidates ready to head turnaround plan

Local News

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Speaking Thursday, the state’s education commissioner spoke for the first time on the district’s plan to turnaround the Rochester city schools.

Last month, in a letter to the Board of Education, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said the district’s plan failed to have “an overarching, coherent vision for District improvement.”

District leaders were tasked with creating an action plan after a report by the district’s “distinguished educator” — a state-appointed advisor who spent recent months working to determine the failures in Rochester.

Distinguished educator Dr. Jaime Acquino’s report found, among a number of issues, the district often failed to put the interests of students ahead of adults. He also pointed to a lack of organization within the Board of Education which led to the board overreaching its role and overruling the superintendent’s office.

But, the district’s plan to fix these issues falls short, Elia writes in a response to the district released Thursday.

In a letter to Board of Education President Van White, Elia says the plan fails to include “an overarching, coherent vision for District improvement.”

Elia adds, “Additionally, the Plan lacks specificity, and/or appears unrealistic in terms of either timelines and/or current District capacity to implement the actions effectively. Overall, the timelines appear aspirational, especially given that the District’s leadership is in transition. While some of the actions described in the Plan may lead to improvement in specific areas, the Plan lacks the cohesiveness needed to drive systemwide increases in effectiveness and efficiency.”

A lot of the discussion has also been around the district’s current search for a new superintendent.

Elia says she’s concerned about implementing this plan without the school’s future leader in place.

But, school board president Van White says all superintendent candidates are aware of the history of RCSD.

“And many of them, without disclosing the details of the interview came prepared to talk about how they were going to deal with the DE’s report,” said White. “So, I think you’re going to find that, whoever the candidate is, that we’re going to be synchronized.”

Interim Superintendent Dan Lowengard says this search for a new leader and improving the plan has to be a partnership between the community and the board.

He says, “We have to be committed to all 84 things, getting them done and getting them done with quality, and a new superintendent will help that.”

The district now has six weeks to revise its plan. You can read Elia’s full response here.

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