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RCSD Distinguished Educator releases report; it has 84 recommendations

Caitlin Whyte
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino

Top New York state officials were in Rochester on Wednesday as the city school district’s distinguished educator released his findings.

Jaime Aquino released a 61-page report that details 106 findings and makes 84 recommendations in an effort to improve the Rochester City School District. Aquino was appointed in August as part of a state effort to improve the district’s academic performance.

The report notes that the school district has seen slight progress on graduation rates, and the Pre-K system is outperforming similar programs nationwide. But Aquino also says that despite these accomplishments, these improvements are insufficient to address the school district’s most pressing needs.

Among the recommendations in Aquino’s report is to improve governance and leadership, by doing things like ensuring that the School Board has a clear understanding of its role and making sure that it prioritizes its focus on improving student achievement. The report also says the district should implement a system by which the school board holds the superintendent accountable.

Aquino also calls for the district to adopt a common curriculum in all subject areas, prioritizing literacy and mathematics, and he says the district must ensure that the Special Education department is supported and held accountable for the implementation of the district’s strategic action plan.

The city school district is expected to submit its plan to address the recommendations to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia no later than February 8.  Both Elia and State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa were in Rochester Wednesday to talk about the report.

Board of Regents Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown, who is a Rochester attorney, says Aquino has “laid out a roadmap that will enable the Rochester City School District and the School Board to give all students in Rochester the opportunity to succeed.”

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said that, “I am encouraged by the plan that Dr. Aquino has put forth to address the serious deficiencies that we have seen across the Rochester City School District for many years. With the framework in place, it is now time for the District, the School Board and Dr. Aquino to work together to implement strategies that will allow Rochester’s children to reach their full potential.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren issued this statement in response to the report:

"The distinguished educators report is a sobering assessment of our city schools. As a community we all need to take some time to read it and fully digest its contents, recommendations and conclusions.  I believe this document needs to be the basis of important community conversations on the state of our school district today, but even more importantly on where the district needs to go tomorrow and beyond.  At this critical time of flux, with the Superintendent's departure, we need to seize on this moment to ensure our children are not left behind. We only get one chance to educate a child and we cannot afford to lose this opportunity to put our schools on a sustainable path of success."

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.