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Former RCSD chief who resigned under pressure reemerges as new Police Accountability Board leader

Former Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small.
Max Schulte
Former Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small, shown here in a file photo, has been tapped to lead the Police Accountability Board.

The Rochester Police Accountability Board has tapped former city schools Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small as its next executive director.

The decision comes after a nearly two-year nationwide search that cost the city $40,000.

Myers-Small served as the superintendent of the Rochester City School District from 2020 to 2022, and before that led Brockport schools for seven years. She resigned from RCSD under fire from school board members for alleged poor management. The push to oust Myers-Small followed a school budget process described at the time by state fiscal monitor Shelley Jallow as “completely irresponsible.”

Myers-Small has most recently worked as a consultant, and as an adjunct professor at Monroe Community College. According to MCC's online class schedule, she leads a course on death and dying related to cultural traditions, race, gender and social justice.

Myers-Small's appointment to lead the PAB still requires approval by the Rochester City Council.

The Police Accountability Board is a police oversight agency created in 2019, after a referendum overwhelmingly approved by voters. It's tasked with reviewing cases of alleged misconduct, making recommendations for discipline to the Rochester chief of police, and performing oversight analyses of departmental policy.

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“Dr. Myers-Small is passionate about her work and commitment to the Rochester community and is eager to continue making a positive impact in her new role with the Police Accountability Board,” PAB Chairman Larry Knox said in a news release announcing the selection. “We are confident she will be officially appointed by City Council.”

A policy guided by District Attorney Sandra Doorley has hobbled the Police Accountability Board's pursuit of department information. That move has made the agency close to impotent in doing investigations.

Myers-Small's appointment appears to miss a key qualification sought in an executive director: a legal background.

Much of the advertising suggested in the city’s request for proposals for an executive search contractor was through bar associations. Likewise, in an employment brochure created by search contractor WBCP, Inc., the desired qualification for the job included a juris doctor degree and a license to practice law in New York. Myers-Small has neither. Her educational and career background is largely in educational administration.

"The ideal candidate will have experience in civil and human rights, specifically with regards to law enforcement and community relations," the search firm's brochure stated.

A message left with the PAB was not immediately returned.

The PAB tapped Sherry Walker-Cowart to serve as interim-executive director in December 2022, replacing the agency’s inaugural executive director Conor Dwyer-Reynolds. Reynolds was ousted that fall after a flurry of mismanagement and misconduct allegations.

In October 2023, the city issued a request for proposals for a consulting firm to lead the search for a new executive director. City Council tapped Oregon-based WBCP in January 2024 to lead the search.

WBCP was tasked with selecting up to five candidates for review by the board.

“I recognize the importance of a smooth leadership transition and I am committed to listening, learning, and engaging with various stakeholders to drive our vision forward,” Myers-Small said in a statement. “My focus will include relationship-building, governance, public affairs, and community engagement to enhance organizational capacity and alignment.”

Former Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small was forced out of the school district before her contract ended.

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.