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East High needs a buddy

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Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas is looking for a partner to run East High School. Working with an educational partner organization is one of the options the State Education Department gave the school district to rehabilitate the failing high school.

The request for proposals went out two weeks ago. The deadline is April 16, Vargas says, but the district may not go ahead with the partnership in the long run. This is just an option, he says.

An EPO can be a college, university, or an organization with a track record of turning around underperforming schools. John Hopkins University, for example, recently partnered with one of Buffalo's schools.

The EPO would report directly to the Rochester school board. And it could seek changes to labor agreements as a condition of coming on board.

Vargas says he recognizes that students, parents, and teachers are skeptical of school turnaround plans. But the SED has provided limited options for dealing with East. He cannot design his own plan, for example, as some parents and students have suggested.

Vargas says he will not recommend closing East. And his predecessor tried phasing in new schools to replace low-performing schools, he says, and that resulted in problems.

That leaves working with an EPO, turning the school over to a SUNY college, or converting East to a charter.

Though Vargas hasn't settled on an EPO, it's an option that falls in line with what he has been talking about for several months. He would welcome a college or university taking over some of the city's low-performing schools, he says.

Vargas has until the end of the month to make his recommendation to the SED. He says he's also considering a second option, though he wouldn't say what it is.

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