WXXI AM News

James Brown

Reporter

Before coming to WXXI News, James spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for Rochester City Newspaper. While at City, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.

James cut his teeth in journalism as an associate producer and weekend assignment editor at WHEC-TV.

A Rochester native and an East High School graduate, James earned a Bachelor of Communications degree from Niagara University where he won awards for his poetry and resurrected the school’s radio station.

The Rochester City School District had a turbulent 2019.

Early in the year, it attempted to respond to a state-mandated report that deemed it in dire need of improvement. It was also at the center of a debate regarding a possible state takeover, and a controversy surrounding teacher layoffs to cover the district’s nearly $65 million budget gap.

James Brown covered these stories throughout the year. He and Connections producer Megan Mack discuss those developments, and what we could see in 2020.

James Brown / WXXI

Teachers across Rochester’s schools wore black on Friday to acknowledge the mid-year layoffs of 109 educators, which the school board approved Thursday in a 5-2 vote. The layoffs are part of a larger plan to bridge a nearly $65 million budget shortfall. 


Max Schulte / WXXI News

 

In a split vote, the Rochester City School District Board of Education approved a plan late Thursday night to lay off 155 district employees.

Under the latest plan from Superintendent Terry Dade, teachers will account for 109 of those layoffs, down from a previous proposal to lay off 152 teachers.

Teachers like LeAnna Dupree and Jamie Lillis were among the hundreds of teachers, staff, and community members who protested outside. They were also among 94 people who expressed their displeasure with the cuts during a nearly three-hour public comment period.

“This is an opportunity for redemption," said Dupree. "Mistakes have been made, of course they have, but join us now be a part of our district. Either take responsibility for your roles in the crisis, or take responsibility for saving the teachers and students.”

James Brown / WXXI

Roughly 13 of the more than 150 teachers who received layoff notices from the Rochester City School District earlier this month have been hired back. 

“Some teachers got layoff notices in the morning and then a recall notice in the afternoon,” said Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association union

He said this happened to fill positions where the district had shortages or requirements like English as a second language or special education. 

James Brown / WXXI

At a recent Rotary meeting, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren made a bold claim about the area’s economy. 

Warren announced her intentions to declare 2020 the year of return. Warren cited filling in the Inner Loop, photonics projects, and private and public investments across the city as signs of progress. 

She also sang the praises of Rochester’s history, culture, diversity and its business community for each of their roles in revitalizing the city. 

Max Schulte / WXXI News

A walkout Friday at the Young Mothers and Interim Health Academy was the latest protest to proposed cuts to Rochester City School District staff.

Students and teachers at the academy said their principal, Tony Robinson, is among the more than 200 staffers who received a layoff notice. Robinson couldn't be reached for comment.

They said Robinson provides consistency and safety to the program, which focuses not only on students who have had babies but also on those who face serious mental health problems.

They're worried about the program's future.

Provided

The Veterans Outreach Center is expanding its services with the opening of its Morale Center at its South Avenue headquarters Thursday. 

The nonprofit’s president, Laura Stradley, says they’ve been putting the project together piece by piece for about a year and have recruited certified professionals to offer free haircuts, massages, and even chiropractic care for veterans. They’re also offering laundry services. 


Rochester Board of Education Commissioner Judith Davis said she has not made up her mind about the district’s plan to lay off more than 150 teachers mid-year, but she is concerned that minorities may take the brunt. 

State Education law says layoffs happen in the order of seniority, and she said in recent years, the district has heavily recruited black and Hispanic teachers. 

James Brown / WXXI

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and County Executive-elect Adam Bello were among the speakers at an event Tuesday discussing efforts to grow Rochester’s economy Rochester. The event was part of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation and Rochester Rotary’s Economic Growth Series. 

During the luncheon, Dinolfo was honored for her efforts to grow the economy. She says she’s leaving Bello in a good position. Dinolfo says her administration's collaborative efforts with businesses and schools like Monroe Community College are just beginning to pay off. 

Part of the plan that officials in the Rochester City School District have in mind for balancing the budget has to do with getting additional state aid.

But there are different views on that possibility among a couple of area lawmakers.

District Superintendent Terry Dade and others have talked about the need for additional state aid to help with the unexpected shortfall affecting the school district this year. They’ve talked about lobbying state lawmakers for at least another $20 million in aid.

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