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Distinguished Educator quits, says Rochester has low expectations for children

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino.
James Brown
Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced Friday that Jaime Aquino, the Rochester City School District’s distinguished educator, has resigned. The New York State Education Department says that Aquino is leaving to pursue another professional opportunity.

Elia said his last day will be June 7.

Elia appointed Aquino last year to give feedback and support to the leadership of the troubled school district. Most notably, Aquino provided a critique of the district highlighting its fiscal and management problems and its long history of poor graduation rates.

In her emailed announcement, Elia also released Aquino’s quarterly report, which outlined several major issues that he said continue to hamper the district’s progress.

He said the district pays little attention to teaching and learning and hasn’t come up with a coherent way to improve learning.

Aquino called Rochester “a community with low expectations for students rooted in a deep history of institutional racism.” Aquino noted that parents often complain at board meetings about their kids not being treated with dignity and respect in the district.

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Aquino also called out the board’s “lack of understanding of its role as a governing body, and its inability to act as a unified body.” He pointed to several instances of public confusion and tension at board meetings.

He said the board is participating in behind-the-scenes conflict resolution efforts, but the tension has not been eased.

Aquino said the culture of fear and intimidation is as strong as ever, but he did credit interim superintendent Dan Lowengard with encouraging a respectful and collaborative environment.

He concluded by expressing the need for a systemic transformation at the district. Board of Education Commissioner Beatriz LeBron said she wishes Aquino would stick around to help foster that.

“I would love for Dr. Aquino to be reappointed for another year to not only be the same individual to give the district the support to see his recommendations through but to give our new superintendent that additional support,” LeBron said.

In a statement, Elia said:

“Dr. Jaime Aquino has served Rochester’s children, parents, teachers, school leaders, the Board of Education and community with great distinction as Distinguished Educator. His insights on the systemic problems facing the school district and board, as well as his counsel on how to correct those problems, will help improve the education of future generations of children. We thank Dr. Aquino for service and wish him the best in his next chapter. While Dr. Aquino’s contributions have been significant, we know our work is far from done in Rochester. We remain committed to the children of Rochester and will continue our endeavors to ensure they get the high quality education they deserve.”

Aquino’s latest report is below:

Rochester Quarterly Report Feb 2019 Apr 2019 by WXXI News on Scribd

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.