Mayor Lovely Warren said Thursday that she was first approached to take mayoral control of the Rochester City School District earlier this year.
The district has been under increased scrutiny from state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia because of its fiscal and management problems and its long history of poor graduation rates.
Warren would not say who approached her, but she did say she’d rather have experts run the district.
“I’m not the best person to do this,” she said. “I believe I don’t have all the information. The state department of education has the information. The state department of education and the Regents, they’re the best persons to do this. Let them do their jobs.”
Warren released a video on the official mayoral Facebook page, featuring herself, city students, and parents urging residents to reach out to state legislators Rich Funke, Joe Robach, Jamie Romeo, David Gantt and Harry Bronson to take action on the issue.
City spokesman Justin Roj said many of the people in the video are those who have called City Hall about issues and agreed to participate. Some of their children also appeared in the video.
Warren didn't release any specifics of a plan that she would like to see, only that she wants to rely on the experts in Albany, like Elia, to come up with a plan that focuses on what's best for children.
Warren said she supports the idea of removing the school board and having the state appoint one, because it would be for just a five-year period. When asked about taking away a layer of democracy, Warren pushed back.
“In everything that we do, we bring it back to what about the parents?” Warren said. “What about the superintendent that’s coming in? What about the board? About the assembly? The legislature? What about the kids? Answer that question for me. What about them?”
Warren said her priority is Rochester’s children.
“How many kids do you want to lose?,” she asked. “How many of them should be sacrificed? The time is now. What are we waiting for? We’ve waited decade after decade after decade. Superintendent after superintendent after superintendent. School board after school board after school board. What are we waiting for?”
Warren is asking state lawmakers to take action before the end of their session in mid-June. New Superintendent Terry Dade is expected to take over the district on July 1.
Warren said she would support Elia removing Dade if she wishes.
“I support a plan that focuses on what’s best for children,” Warren said, “and if at the end of the day what’s best for children is to make the appointment of the superintendent by the commissioner and that’s what needs to be done, then I’m going to do that.”
Dade told WXXI News on Wednesday that he signed a three-year contract with the district.
Board of Education President Van White said he empathizes with the mayor’s concern, but he said the timing is wrong.
“Between 1,000 and 2,000 students will be graduating this June,” said White. “Those students need our focus and support. It’s the future of those 1,000-plus students that we should be working on, not the future of seven adults who may or may not be on the Board of Education.”