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Turn-around Rochester school leader will head up community partnerships at U of R

4 people stand side-by-side in a classroom
Photo provided
From left to right: The new East administrators are Edward Mascadri, upper school principal, Caterina Leone-Mannino, assistant superintendent, Marlene Blocker, new superintendent, and Shaun Nelms, the outgoing superintendent.

After eight years at Rochester’s East High School, Superintendent Shaun Nelms is leaving the school system to be the first vice president of community partnerships at the University of Rochester.

Nelms is credited with a remarkable turn-around at East High, which had a 33% graduation rate when he was hired in 2015. Now the school has an 85% graduation rate and a lower dropout rate, among other successes. The University of Rochester partners with the city school district to operate East.

Nelms says he hopes to expand on that partnership model and bring university resources in medicine, research, and beyond to the broader Rochester community.

“We have proven through the East partnership that when the university is responsive to the needs of the communities that the students and families, and even the business owners, all benefit,” Nelms said during an interview with WXXI News.

Nelms starts his new role on July 1. Marlene Blocker, a current principal at East, will succeed him. Nelms says East is in good hands with Blocker and he’s looking forward to his new role.

"My passion is transformation of organizations, particularly in large, complex settings,” Nelms said.

In a statement, University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf said Nelms inspired the university to create the new role.

“Shaun is a visionary leader who for the past eight years has led a revolutionary partnership that could be a model for K-12 transformation,” she said. “If we are to have the greatest impact we can—in Rochester and around the world—we must work together with other academic institutions, with community organizations, and the corporate sector in a more strategic and organized way.”

The new superintendent, Blocker, was first hired by the Rochester City School District as a teacher at General Elwell S. Otis School No. 3 in 1988. She served as an assistant principal and principal before being hired at East in 2015.

Nelms said her appointment "creates consistency for families, scholars and staff" at East High.

Alex Crichton is host of All Things Considered on WXXI-FM 105.9/AM 1370. Alex delivers local news, weather and traffic reports beginning at 4 p.m. each weekday.
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