More RCSD students, staff protest proposed layoffs

Dec 13, 2019

Isabella Austin, right, a senior at Young Mothers and Interim Health Academy, organized a student protest at the Hart Street campus Friday. Students were concerned that the proposed layoffs sparked by the Rochester City School District’s budget deficit could make the school less safe.
Credit 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.

Lanayeshaw Shaw, a 16-year-old student at Young Mothers and Interim Health Academy, protests the proposed layoff of principal Tony Robinson.
Credit Max Schulte / WXXI News

“The school was really devastated," said Isabella Austin, an 18-year-old student who organized Friday's walkout. "There were a lot of tears. A lot of confusion, a lot of anger and upsetness because he’s been here for each kid and he knows each kid’s situation personally.

"I feel like we’re paying for the mistakes that district made," Austin added. "And our principal and our principal and us did not cause the problems in the district."

Board of Education Vice President Cynthia Elliott is the program’s liaison. She happened to be visiting Robinson on Friday and saw the walkout. Elliott said she supported this protest but not all of them.

“If they’re supporting our principal who is doing the work that we need to do, then I don’t have a problem with it," Elliott said. "But in general, the other schools where the academic success rate is poor, these kids need to be in class, and they should be telling these kids to stay in class.”

More than 200 Rochester City School District staff members received layoff notices last week as leadership works toward bridging a $65 million budget gap.

District spokesperson Carlos Garcia said the district will not speculate on who or what programs will be cut.

Superintendent Terry Dade said on Friday afternoon that negotiations with the Rochester Teachers Association and other unions are ongoing in an effort to minimize the layoffs.

The Board of Education plans to vote on the proposed cuts on Thursday.