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Rochester school board to get new blood


When city voters head to the polls in November, they’ll find a ballot for a school board race that conventional wisdom suggests is all but settled.

There are four candidates for three open seats, but one of those candidates is on a minor party line and, after suspending his campaign upon losing the Democratic primary, has not been a force in the contest.

The seats will almost assuredly go to the three candidates on the Democratic line, two of whom will be new to the board.

All three of them, though, will have their work cut out for them. For as long as most people can remember, the Rochester City School District has pinballed from crisis to crisis.

For the better part of the last two years, the district has grappled with the aftershocks of a self-inflicted budget deficit that was so bad the board laid off 175 employees, including more than 100 teachers, to shore up the gap.

More recently, the district scrambled to fill a shortage of bus drivers that forced the postponement of the academic year and left a few hundred students without transportation for the first few days of school.

Then there’s the perennial issue of lackluster student achievement that has relegated Rochester to a permanent cellar dweller among the state’s school districts in pretty much every performance category that matters.

Sure, there have been some modest improvements. For instance, the graduation rate in 2019 hit 63 percent, a figure officials said was the highest in 20 years. But that was due in part to the district shepherding students toward the least academically-rigorous diploma, one that prepares them for entry-level employment instead of college or a skilled trade.

All of the candidates in this race have thoughts on how to support students and promote academic achievement among them, as well as their own priorities for district leadership.

The three winning candidates will serve four year terms.

Joshua Bauroth - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Joshua Bauroth

Joshua Bauroth, a Monroe County legislator from Brighton, has not been actively campaigning since he lost the Democratic primary in June. He will be on the ballot, however, under the Working Families Party banner.


Cynthia Elliott - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Cynthia Elliott
Cynthia Elliott is the only incumbent city school board member on the ballot and remains popular among voters. Despite her time on the board overlapping with crisis after crisis, she was the top vote-getter in June’s nine-way Democratic primary for the three open seats.

Elliott, who works as the associate executive director of Baden Street Settlement, was first elected to the board in 2005 and currently serves as its vice president. Over the years, Elliott has consistently said that she wants to make sure that the district has effective leadership, has pushed for greater parent involvement, and has called for better lunches for students.


James Patterson - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • James Patterson
James Patterson, a Democrat, is a retired New York State Trooper who, after his 27-year career in law enforcement, began a career in education. He has taught or provided academic support at several schools and currently instructs security guards and teachers’ assistants at SUNY Brockport’s Rochester Educational Opportunity Center.

Patterson’s platform prioritizes district governance and finances, fixing what he calls “charter schools’ financial drain,” incorporating restorative practices into the district, parent engagement, and improving on-time graduation rates.


Camille Simmons - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Camille Simmons
Camille Simmons, a Democrat who will also appear on the Working Families Party line, began working with Rochester City School District students in 2009 as a youth advocate. She is now the continuous improvement manager for ROC the Future, an initiative focused on enhancing academic outcomes for city students.

She has said the district should assess policies, practices, and funding with an eye on racial equity; focus on improving school climate, high school graduation rates, and high-quality instruction; pay more attention to the voices of students and parents; and work with the broader community of stakeholders to secure more adequate funding.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at