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State Education Dept. met with RCSD board members about distinguished educator

Caitlin Whyte
Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia

Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia were in town Tuesday to meet with each of the Rochester City School District board members to discuss the appointing of a distinguished educator to the district.

The distinguished educator will spend up to a year with the district, and in about three to four months, publish a report of how the systems within the district function, and what could be changed to improve student performance.

There has been some skepticism about the idea, but overall, Elia said the meetings with board members went well.

"I thought they've been very good, very informative. We've been able to respond to questions that some of the board members from Rochester had and I think it's been an open dialogue."

Elia says it’s critical to have a set of eyes from outside the board assess what is happening or not happening within the district, based on student performance in the last several years.

"It’s clear that we need to address some things that perhaps they aren’t seeing, or that we feel, once we have the report from the distinguished educator, need to be addressed."

The educator, Kenneth Eastwood, is the former superintendent of the Middletown and Oswego school districts. Elia and Rosa said they made multiple trips to his district, speaking with staff there before making their decision.

A similar situation played out in the Buffalo school district, but Elia says the focus was different. While the distinguished educator there was assessing the curriculum, the one in Rochester will look at how systems function within the district.

"So our focus is really what we can help to shift to make sure that Rochester students have what they need to be successful."

Elia says they met with six of seven board members Tuesday. They plan to meet with the last member, as well as superintendent Barbara Dean Williams via video conference calls.

Eastwood will begin his work at the end of April.