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White to seek open County Judge seat, will not run for reelection on RCSD board

Rochester Board of Education President Van White
Rochester Board of Education President Van White

Rochester Board of Education President Van White, who's been on the board for 13 years, said he’s not running for reelection. 

Instead, White is pursuing one of three open Monroe County Court judge seats in 2021. White said he could not run for both roles simultaneously. 

White said there has been a clamor for systemic change in the legal system for a long time. As an African American and an experienced litigator, he feels he can make that change happen from the inside.

“I could be as Teddy Roosevelt said, in the cheap seats looking down and condemning and criticizing, and litigating on a case by case basis as a lawyer or I can get right in the thick of things,” said White. “I don’t look at my effort to go over to the courthouse any different than when I decided to go into the district. It was a system in need of systemic change and so is the courthouse.”

Before he joined the district, White sued the Rochester City School District several times most famously over 13-year old Stephne Givens's death out of Jefferson Middle School in 1995.

He said the work at the district isn’t done, but improvements have happened. During his time on the board, graduation rates have increased from about 35% to roughly 68%. White also said the district is good hands with Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small, who started the job in mid-2020.

White said he’s been impressed by some of the candidates that have expressed interest in the seats. He said board members have to be creative, collaborative and be able to handle criticism. White said the board attracts people like himself, who want to make systemic change but that doesn’t happen without a price. 

“You need to have a tough outer skin,” said White. “You may come in and say ‘they screwed up our kids’, but you become ‘they’ in short order.”

White plans on finishing his term. His seat will be one of at least three that will be up for election in 2021. 


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.