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East H.S. officials update the community on the UR partnership

Tianna Manon/WXXI News
Lorna Washington discusses changes to East Upper and Lower Schools in the annual public meeting.

The name isn’t the only thing different about East High School.

The East Upper and Lower Schools updated the community on its progress in its annual public meeting Thursday evening.  Lorna Washington, Special Assistant to the Educational Partnership Organization superintendent, said the school has seen major gains in attendance, testing and graduation since partnering with the University of Rochester two years ago.

Some key statistics? Attendance has risen to over 80 percent. Suspensions are down from close to 3,000 two years ago to just over 400 this year. And outside of academia, more students are playing sports and more families are coming to school events. Washington reported that 65 percent of lower school families attended at least one event last school year. 

“The culture is completely different,” said Lorna Washington, special assistant to the Educational Partnership Organization Superintendent.

“If you’ve ever been to East before within the last few years the way that it was as far as fights and just disruption has really changed a lot. The culture when you walk in the door is just really different," she continued. 

Some of the changes can be attributed to the increase in parental and community involvement.

“If you really listen to what parents are asking you and you try to create structures to support them then I think change often comes as a result," said Shaun Nelms, superintendent of the Upper and Lower schools. "And attendance is one of those structures." 

Washington said they’ve added free tax preparation, workshops for parents and even extended the school day to give students help on their homework. Nelms said some parents reported not being able to help their students with their homework so they changed the school day to give students targeted help. That's not the only change parents have contributed to. 

“In our lower school parents said they don’t want their kids to ride the RTS bus because of the age gap between that innocent 11 year old sixth grader and that very mature high school senior,” said Nelms. “So we provide yellow buses for grades 6-8 and our attendance rate is above 90 percent and it’s been that way for two years now.”

Washington said she also wants to dispel the label that East is a “bad school” so they’ve worked to secure programs that are normally only in suburban districts.

“Our ability and what we’re doing now in the present is really trying to change the narrative for the kids and have our scholars really understand that they can be successful, that there are things they can do," she said. "There are programs that are offered here that are not offered within other schools in the district. We try to offer programs that would be similar to what they would receive in a suburban district.”  

Next? The school is on the path to become a community school. It’s partnering with School No. 33 which will become a feeder school.