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New fellowship aimed at transformational change for city school students

A coalition of local child and family advocates has announced an effort at improving  schools in Rochester that involves a two-year fellowship.

The group, called the Rochester Education Fellowship, is looking for someone to help build a community-centered vision leading to transformational change for public schools in Rochester.

Former city school district administrator Jerome Underwood, who is now president and CEO of Action for a Better Community, is a co-chair of the selection committee for the new fellowship. Underwood said they are looking for someone who has an overall understanding of how Rochester work.

“Not just in education but in all aspects because we know education doesn’t exist in a vacuum; there’s an entire eco system with respect to housing, with respect to employment, with respect to the criminal justice system. " Underwood co-chairs the selection committee with Holli Budd, Executive Director of the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation. The foundation is providing financing for the fellowship.

Underwood noted that most of the student population in the city is from Black and brown communities. For that reason, Underwood says whatever plan is devised to improve the educational outcomes of city students must be culturally relevant for them.

“The design if you will, be anchored on the lived experiences of the majority of those students. So what we’re looking to have is to have that entrepreneur, the fellow, he or she will help to design a system of schools, not just a school, but to design a system that will lend itself to better outcomes for children and student,” Underwood said.

Underwood said it remains to be seen whether the person chosen for this position will move toward changes within the city school district, or propose new charter schools.

“So we’ve seen it work both ways, where the entrepreneur design says, ‘hey, we can function inside a school system, or it could be a charter, or a combination of both,’ so that’s to be determined based on the work that the fellow will do.”

Anyone interested in applying for the fellowship can d find more info at

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.