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"We're withering on the vine", says school board president: White seeks creative solutions

Van White
File photo
Van White

The president of the Rochester School Board says if the city school district wants to compete with charter and private schools, there have to be some creative solutions to give students a top-notch education.

Van White says one of his priorities for 2017 is to focus on the basics such as literacy and support for students who have struggles at home.

But White says families want and deserve much more.

"The charter schools understand that there's a market out there that wants something better for the children in the city of Rochester,” he said. “We can't just say we're going to make things better. We have to, in order to compete, be the best at some things, such that parents don't put the 'for sale' signs up when they lose confidence in our schools, such that parents don't send for the yellow buses to take their kids to parochial schools and charter schools."

White is hoping the district will finalize an agreement to have SUNY Geneseo take over School #19. The proposed partnership would be different than the one that currently exists between the University of Rochester and East High. This model would put teachers in charge of the elementary school.        

"In other words, while there will be administrators in that building, the teachers really will be in charge of pedagogy and leadership, and that's a model we don't have in many schools,” White said.

The school board president hasn't given up on his proposal to bring amilitary academy to the city school district.

A special committee in 2016 found community support for such a school, but White says it's clear he still has to convince some school board members that it's a good idea.

"Some people think that it's going to be used as a recruitment tool,” he said. “Well, the facts just don't bear that out. Less than 5 percent of students who attend military academies actually go into the military as a career."

Van White was unanimously re-elected earlier this month to his third term as board president.

At the school board meeting this Thursday, January 12, several teams of parents, students, teachers, and administrators will be presenting their priorities for 2017.  The teams were convened by district superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams, who had meetings with various groups in recent months to get their feedback on how to improve city schools.  

Thursday’s meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at district headquarters, 131 West Broad Street.