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Rochester schools superintendent shakes up district leadership

Rochester City School District Superintendent Carmine Peluso
Rochester City School District
Rochester City School District superintendent Carmine Peluso has removed three administrators from their positions and hired their replacements, the district announced this week.

Rochester schools Superintendent Carmine Peluso is making big leadership changes in the district.

About 3 months into his tenure as superintendent, Carmine Peluso has replaced three administrators who were appointed by the former superintendent, Lesli Myers-Small. "We have a team here that is connected to our schools and connected to our kids,” Peluso said. “Without that, then I have a bunch of people sitting at a high level that are making decisions without being connected to the ground.”

One of Peluso's picks for his cabinet is Demario Strickland, who is replacing Kathleen Black as deputy superintendent of teaching and learning.

Strickland was previously the district’s chief of innovation and school reform since 2021. He has a background in something called “turnaround leadership,” which means the ability to transform a low-performing school system into one with improved student achievement.

“It's going to be really important for our staff, my staff, and my cabinet to be connecting to what is happening in our buildings, and that we're not making decisions from a level that doesn't acknowledge and know what is happening,” Peluso said on Tuesday. “Me identifying a cabinet that is willing to do that is extremely important.”

Stephen LaMorte will take on the role of chief academic officer, replacing Shanie Keelan. He was formerly the executive director of strategic initiatives with the district, and taught social studies at Monroe and Franklin campuses.

Former Principal Deasure Matthew is coming out of retirement to become acting chief of schools. She has previous experience as an administrator and as a teacher in the district.

Peluso’s overall vision, he said, is to uplift Rochester schools and improve opportunities for students to connect more with classes and extracurricular activities.

He said he intends to remain in his position at the city school district for as long as the community and school board see that he is fit to do so.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.