The ongoing effort to rebuild and modernize Rochester’s city schools saw a change in leadership recently as former Mayor Thomas Richards lost his bid to remain chairman of the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board.
Appointed by the then-Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, Richards took the chairman position in March 2014 after losing his mayoral re-election bid to current Mayor Lovely Warren.
During an organizational meeting on Tuesday, the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board elected Allen Williams as its new chairman in a four-to-three vote. Williams currently acts as director of special projects for the Warren administration and has been a member of the board since April 2015. Additionally, he served on the City School District’s Board of Education from 2008 to 2011.
This shakeup in leadership takes place in the wake of a controversial decision made by the board less than two weeks ago. In a split vote, board members decided to drop a Phase II project labor agreement with local construction unions that would have set up requirements for union hiring, wage agreements, and other construction regulations.
The board was split over the outcome of a similar agreement that had been implemented during the project’s Phase I. Some members did not consider the agreement a success since only five women or minority apprentices worked on Phase I as a result of the agreement; however, other board members argued that the initiative had met its larger goal for minority hiring as more than 20% of all Phase I workers were minorities.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, since his defeat, Richards has not been available for comment.
It is not yet clear if the change in leadership will alter the timelines for construction in Phase II A of the $1.3 billion project, though city officials remain hopeful that the initiative will stay on track. It is, after all, the largest public works project in Rochester history.
Research has shown that education is an integral part of our society. A staggering 70% of children are more likely to commit a violent crime if they didn’t get a quality preschool education. In fact, a male is 20% less likely to engage in violent conflict for every year of schooling. With these statistics in mind, there is no doubt that the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board is taking on a deeply important project.