Former Urban League CEO William Clark has joined the Rochester Board of Education.
Clark was CEO of the Urban League of Greater Rochester for 38 years. He replaces Natalie Sheppard, who left the board for a position at the Monroe County Board of Elections in August.
During his announcement Wednesday, Clark said he was given the weekend to think it over. He said he discussed it with family and friends and he couldn’t resist the opportunity. He resigned from the board of the Rochester Prep Charter School network to become a commissioner. Clark said the impact of helping 26,000 city school students is bigger than helping 2,600 charter students.
“I couldn’t live with myself had I said no because three or four years from now I wouldn’t know if I could make a difference,” said Clark. “Some folks would say why, why would you take on this responsibility and my answer to them would be you retire from a job you never retire from a mission.”
Clark was approached by Board President Van White late last week, after the board could not come to an agreement on which of the approximately 10 candidates should take the spot. White said he contacted the other candidates and encouraged them to run next.
“Perhaps it is best,” said White. “That we get an exceptional servant leader like Mr. Clark to stand in the hole, to stand in the gap, while the citizens decide who the ensuing board member is for the following four years.”
Clark must be reappointed in January. He said he will not run next year to keep the seat.When asked whether other board members would be accepting of Clark, Commissioner Willa Powell said Clark’s record is unassailable.
“With Mr. Clark’s elder statesman status anyone who finds fault with this appointment would be diminishing themselves,” said Powell.
In a statement, Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said Clark has an understanding of the issues and challenges that come with urban education.
“His expertise preparing urban and underrepresented students for jobs and a college education match with my goal of achieving equity and access to high-quality educational experiences for all students, across all schools,” said Myers-Small.
She also noted that she was the first winner of the Urban League’s William G. Clark Black Scholar Alumni of the Year Award in recognition for her volunteer work with the nonprofit.