State officials and parents weigh in on report about the Rochester City School District

Jan 11, 2019

Credit Emily Hunt / for WXXI News

A few dozen stakeholders from across Rochester joined a community discussion at Wilson Foundation Academy on Thursday to talk about a recent report on the state of the Rochester City School District.

The report is a comprehensive critique of district management, finances, practices, and educational outcomes.

The Distinguished Educator who was appointed by the state, Jamie Aquino, attended the session, as did New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and two local state regents, T. Andrew Brown, who is also vice chancellor of the Board of Regents, and Wade Norwood.

Elia said that her agency needs to see change.  

“We cannot allow Rochester to move forward with the number of problems that we had identified for us.”

Sheila Driscoll was among the parents who came to voice concerns Thursday night. Three of her daughters graduated from city schools in recent years. She thinks the Aquino report highlighted one of the district’s biggest problems.

“The one issue that I think he stressed that I think is most important is the lack of consistent leadership. The way that superintendents seem to be hired and in my mind pushed out after a certain number of years,” Driscoll said.

Another parent, Creola Gibbs, said she feels that the district is falling down on its responsibilities.

“The school district says the kids can’t learn because of poverty. That’s not true. They can’t learn because there aren’t competent teachers to teach them.”

Brown said if the school board doesn’t come up with a plan based on the recommendations in the Distinguished Educator’s report, the process will intensify.

“If we don’t believe that that plan has what it takes to fix the problems, then we will take a more aggressive role," Brown said. "And as the commissioner mentioned, nothing is off the table. We have certain powers today, but if we believe we have need for additional powers than we will go forward and talk to the Legislature to seek those additional powers to bring about the types of change that is needed in the interest of this school district.”

The school board’s response to the report is due Feb. 8.