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White tries to cushion Deane-Williams' blow


Rochester School Board President Van White made a concerted effort at a press conference today to downplay Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams' sudden announcement that she is leaving the district at the end of January.
City school board President Van White. - PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • City school board President Van White.

He dismissed the idea that she was leaving because of conflicts with board members. And he declined to comment on why she is leaving, saying that she should address that question herself. The board will look for an interim superintendent immediately and then begin the search for another permanent superintendent, White said. 

He praised Deane-Williams, saying she had made great strides in certain areas. She should be recognized for her cultural sensitivity and push for racial equity, White said.

"Her cabinet looked like Rochester," White said. The district has never had a superintendent address racial equity as aggressively as Deane-Williams, he said.

White began the event by handing out copies of articles suggesting that superintendents' tenure in urban districts averages about three years. Most of the district's superintendents have not stayed long in the district, he said, and progress has been made incrementally under each of them. For instance, Rochester's August graduation rate is on the cusp of breaking 60 percent. When White started on the board 10 years ago, it was 39 percent, he said.

An article from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings said that superintendent longevity has little influence on student achievement. "Superintendents account for a small fraction of a percent of student differences in achievement," the article said.

But the articles don't address what effect superintendent turnover has on teachers and staff, and they don't explain why, if superintendents have little impact on student achievement, they're typically paid six-figure salaries.

Deane-Williams was not at the event. Board members Natalie Sheppard and Beatriz LeBron were there, but they didn't speak.