State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has appointed a Distinguished Educator for the Rochester school district, a response, she said, to the district's persistent problems.
Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams will have a partner as she and district staff work to improve students' achievement.
Elia appointed Dr. Kenneth Eastwood, whose 30 years of experience include service as superintendent of the Oswego and Middletown, New York, school districts. He'll work with Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams, the Rochester school board, and district staff to "develop and implement plans to address fiscal, operational, and instructional challenges faced by the district," according to the press release announcing his appointment. He starts work on April 26, and he'll be classified as a consultant. The Rochester district will pay for his services.
"For far too many years," Elia said, "the Rochester City School District has struggled to address a myriad of issues relating to instruction and student support that have created impediments to student learning."
Among the issues Elia cited:
- It has the lowest graduation rate of any district in the state with more than 30 students in a graduating class;
- It has the state's lowest performance in English language arts and math performance, combined, in grades 3 through 8, and the second lowest in the high school level;
- It is one of only five districts in the state in which 20 percent or more of its schools have been placed in receivership because of low student performance and one of only three where a receivership school has failed to make sufficient improvement;
- It has been cited for failure to provide appropriate services for students with disabilities and for failure to provide sufficient services for English-language learners.
In addition to working with the district on such issues as its Comprehensive Plan and its plans for schools with poor achievement, Eastwood will review the district's organization and its fiscal systems. He'll serve as an ex-officio member of the school board.
The Rochester district released the following statement from Deane-Williams in response to Eastwood's appointment:
“I welcome the participation of Dr. Eastwood in addressing the fiscal, operational, and instructional challenges facing the district. While I am confident of the direction in which the district is currently proceeding, I also know that there is additional urgent work to be done to serve Rochester’s children and their families. Our children deserve the very best and I remain deeply committed to serving this community.”