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Assembly candidates praise RCSD hire, differ on district’s plan for success

James Brown
WXXI News file photo

Assemblyman Harry Bronson and his primary challenger for the 138th District seat, Alex Yudelson, have nothing but good things to say about incoming Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small. Multiple sources tell WXXI News that she is the board’s choice for the role. 

Bronson said he knew for a while that Myers-Small was in the mix for the top job at the district. He’s discussed her resume with education experts. 

“The depth of her experience, the breadth of her experience with struggling schools makes her exceptionally qualified to take this role,” said Bronson.

Myers-Small was an administrator in the district in the 1990s. She previously ran the Brockport Central School District and currently is an assistant commissioner for the State Education Department.

Myers-Small will be the first former city school district administrator to get the district’s top job since Manny Rivera, who ran the district in the early 1990s and again for much of the early 2000s. 

Yudelson, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s chief of staff, said Myers-Small applied for the role in the past

Lesli C. Myers-Small
Credit Provided
Lesli Myers-Small

 and thinks she’s a good hire.

“I think it's great frankly that they’ve chosen someone who really understands education, really understands RCSD and has the experience to help get the job done,” Yudelson said.

But Yudelson and Bronson differ in what they think it takes for Myers-Small to succeed. 

Yudelson said a reformation of how the Rochester Board of Education works is needed. 

“But this has never been about finding a good superintendent,” said Yudelson. “We’ve had lots of qualified superintendents, and slowly but surely, everyone of them has been run out of a broken system by the RCSD school board.”

Myers-Small would be the Rochester City School District’s fourth full-time superintendent since 2011. Bolgen Vargas, Barbara Deane-Williams and the resigning Terry Dade all held the job. The role was shared twice by Linda Cimusz and Dan Lowengard as interim superintendent; Bolgen Vargas was also an interim superintendent prior to becoming a permanent one.

Yudelson said the board of education, which provides oversight for the superintendent, is overpaid, too partisan, and meddlesome and should be replaced while the system is restructured. He said he’d like more student input but said a community conversation is needed to define the parameters of a new governance structure.

Bronson has similar issues with the board but he’s hanging his hopes on a fiscal and academic monitor. That yet to be named state appointee was a part of a deal Bronson brokered with the state to bail out the district last month. He said the three-year agreement gives the state and the governor’s office more input over the district’s finances.

“It's more important because the monitor would be forced to listen to the voices of our family and the voices of our children,” said Bronson.

He said the monitor system has robust public input sessions prior to major board decisions. Should the board, superintendent, and the monitor disagree on a decision, it will be up to the state education department to make a final choice. 

Bronson said this system could transform the district while maintaining local control.

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.
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