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East High School is honoring leaders of color with the help of local artist Shawn Dunwoody. 

Dunwoody painted public portraits of historical figures like President Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and 27 others as part of The Legacy Project: The Eyes of Our Ancestors. 

The 10-by-4 portraits are hanging in the school's courtyard on East Main Street. 

Organizers like Dr. James Willis, the director of African and American studies for the Rochester City School District, hope these images can be inspirational for students and the community at large.

Max Schulte / WXXI News file photo

East High School students, like senior Madison Smith, walked out of their classes on Monday to protest the district’s plan to layoff more than 150 teachers. The cuts, which total over 200 staffers, come as district leaders grapple with bridging a $64.8 million budget gap. 

“If you see us doing this, if you see how hard we’re fighting for these teachers, and you still don’t care, and you still plan on cutting them, on not changing your decision, It shows that you do not have our best interests in mind,” Smith said.

More than a dozen schools around the state initially designated as ‘struggling’ by the NYS Education Department have been making progress.

The state says that all 14 schools initially identified in July 2015 as struggling academically have made what officials call “demonstrable improvement,” although they remain under receivership, which means they get special attention from superintendents who have enhanced powers and responsibilities to help support dramatic changes.

Rochester City School District graduation rates climb

Aug 14, 2019

The Rochester City School District's 2018-19 graduation rate is 58 percent.

Though it is still low, it's an increase of 4.5 percentage points over last year, continuing the rate's upward trajectory.

But an even larger jump at East Upper and Lower School has exceeded some district officials' expectations. East's graduation rate for its first full four-year student cohort -- students who started at East as freshmen four years ago and graduated as seniors -- was 65 percent.

When the University of Rochester signed on to serve as the Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) for struggling East High School, UR representatives acknowledged they did not enter the partnership lightly. In 2015, New York State labeled East an "out of time" school. It would have closed, if not for the EPO.

This hour, we sit down with representatives from the partnership to discuss the EPO’s three-year progress report. They share the challenges East has faced, the successes they’ve seen, and what they hope for the next phase of the collaboration. In studio:

  • Shaun Nelms, superintendent of the East EPO, and associate professor and William & Sheila Konar Director of the Center for Urban Education Success at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education
  • Marlene Blocker, principal of East Upper School
  • Tanya Wilson Thevanesan, principal of East Lower School
  • Lorna Washington, assistant superintendent of Strategic Planning for the East EPO
  • Kyle Crandall, representative of the Rochester Teachers Association (RTA) for East, and president of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition

WATCH: What is East High's next chapter?

Jun 30, 2019

Five years ago the saying "East High Lives" was like a mantra of sorts for students, teachers, and community members, desperate to keep the doors open at the century-old school. Fast-forward five years and a new mantra is starting to circulate. Today it's more common to hear, "All in at East" when discussing the school that's been under a microscope since its partnership with the University of Rochester launched four years ago. But to what degree does "all in" include the student voice and perspective? Here's what Need to Know learned after visiting the school throughout the past several months. We'll also hear from school superintendent, Shaun Nelms, about what's next now that the East-UR partnership has been renewed.

WATCH: What's next for East High; The Awesome Project

Jun 27, 2019

It's been called everything from "an experiment" to "a project." Now that a five year partnership between East High and the University of Rochester has been renewed, what's next, or rather, what should be next? Some graduating seniors have a few thoughts. We'll hear from them and their leader, Shaun Nelms, on this edition of Need to Know.

Also on the show, if you happen to have an idea that would make Rochester more awesome there may be some no-strings-attached funding to help launch that idea. We'll learn how it works.

Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

If delivered in the right way, sarcasm has a constructive purpose in the classroom, according to a recent study from the University of Rochester.

Joanne Larson, a professor and researcher at the Warner School of Education, noticed while observing an English class at East High that teacher Timothy Morris used sarcasm to build positive relationships with his students.

"He has these one-liners that he says all the time,” Larson said. “When students are talking when he's trying to give instruction or something, he'll say, 'I hope you enjoy summer school.' "

Marty Kauffman WXXI

Some teachers at East High School are using the power of food to connect with their students.

“Well I got some competition here,” says Liz Conroy who teaches English and Journalism at EAST. "The jambalaya might be a dark horse in this whole thing but I feel pretty confident about my meatballs. Tried and true."

Conroy says it’s important everyone to experience each other’s backgrounds.

Tianna Manon/WXXI News

The name isn’t the only thing different about East High School.

The East Upper and Lower Schools updated the community on its progress in its annual public meeting Thursday evening.  Lorna Washington, Special Assistant to the Educational Partnership Organization superintendent, said the school has seen major gains in attendance, testing and graduation since partnering with the University of Rochester two years ago.

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