University of Rochester officials say they're interested in helping East High School, but they won't be rushed. UR President Joel Seligman has sent a letter of intent to State Education Commissioner John King, agreeing to submit a proposal for East if certain conditions can be agreed upon by King, UR, the Rochester City School District, and the district's four unions.
Two proposals were actually presented at a school board meeting last night. The UR proposal, and a proposal by Superintendent Bolgen Vargas to break East
up into three schools, each focused on career readiness.
In a fairly lengthy and detailed letter, Seligman said the situation at East is so complex that the UR is not willing to jump into a proposal. Seligman requested extra time for analysis and planning, and asked King to postpone an approval until February 2015. During that time, the UR would lead some unspecified pilot programs and initiatives before including them in a proposal.
The UR’s efforts would be led by Stephen Uebbing, a professor at the Warner School. Uebbing is a former schools superintendent and has worked with school districts to correct failing schools.
Under the proposal, the UR would not finance or subsidize its work with East, and all planning and implementation costs incurred would be paid for by the district.
Anibal Soler would remain principal of East, the letter says, if he states in writing his willingness to fully cooperate with the UR. He would be given complete autonomy over the school, the letter says, including flexibility to introduce new courses and initiatives, as well as to hire additional social workers.
Uebbing would lead a planning team divided into several teams, and the teams would need access to student data.
The UR would have complete control over school schedules. It would also develop a new code of conduct policy, and have the ability to adjust the enrollment at East. The UR wants to limit students transferred into East after October 1 of each year to prevent disruptions and continuous changes in East’s student body.
Clearly some groundwork had been laid for the UR’s proposal prior to last night’s announcement. For instance, Seligman’s letter says the school board has already received a letter of commitment from three of the district’s unions to negotiate with the UR. The board hasn’t received a letter from the union representing paraprofessionals, but the union has given a verbal commitment, according to Seligman’s letter.
Even though there are now several options on the table for East, there is still confusion about the plans. First, board members emphasized that the UR has not submitted a proposal for East. Seligman has submitted a letter of intent with many contingencies, which could cause the university to eventually drop out.
And there are huge concerns among school board members, Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, and even the potential partners about the State Education Department's demand for a plan to be submitted by May 15 and implemented this fall. School officials are crossing their fingers that King will grant another delay for whatever plan they submit to State Ed.