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RCSD Hears Improvement Plans from State Monitor, Superintendent

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Shelley Jallow, state-appointed monitor to the RCSD. Provided photo

Update: State monitor Shelley Jallow has scheduled a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 12 on the Rochester City School District’s financial and academic issues.

The finance portion will start at 5:30 p.m. and run for 45 minutes. The academic portion will start at 6:15 and run for 45 minutes.

Speakers can registe online at rcsdk12.org/statemonitorhearings; emailing statemonitor@rcsdk12.org or calling the Board of Education at (585)-262-8525. Speakers will be sent a link to to the Zoom conference. Comments will help Jallow develop and refine fiscal and academic plans.

Reconfiguring grade levels and transitioning to neighborhood schools are two recommendations expected to be part of the Rochester City School District Academic Plan proposed by state monitor Shelley Jallow.

Jallow provided a preview during a Board of Education meeting Oct. 27.

Her presentation came after Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small and Genelle Morris, Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning laid out a three-year strategic plan.

All three hold doctorate degrees.

Board members greeted both plans with enthusiasm.

President Van White said it showed forward thinking. Commissioner Amy Maloy said she was impressed and said, “Your expertise is evident throughout the plan.” Commissioner Ricardo Adams said the expectation that the administration will monitor and adjust over the three years “leaves us wiggle room to deal with the unexpected. That’s a realistic approach to have.”

Board members said there hadn’t been a cohesive, comprehensive strategic plan in some time. The superintendent’s plan was up for approval, and the board voted to accept it. Jallow’s document will be given to the board by Nov. 1 and there will be a period of public comment.

Taken together, the documents can be considered a much-needed roadmap for the district through the 2023 academic year. Previously, Jallow had presented her proposal for financial improvement.

Jallow’s role as the state monitor is to work with the board on proposed academic and fiscal improvement plans, make sure the district has a balanced budget and help the board adopt a conflict of interest policy policy that ensures the board and administration act in the best interest of the district. The position is a non-voting ex-officio member of the board.

Jallow made general observations, such as a need for a long-term commitment to focus resources on accelerating teaching and learning. She said that while there are other ways to assess proficiency, test scores show a need to redouble efforts.

“We have to make up for lost time, we have to make up for a gap that is growing,” she said.

She also said that while the district “had a kazillion wonderful ideas,” it needs help in seeing them through. She also said the district needs a rigorous way to measure the success of programs and cut its losses on the ones that aren’t working. The district needs to measure success in more ways than graduation rates, “to include a portrait of a RCSD graduate grounded in college, career and civic readiness.”

Among her recommendations:

  • Restructure the office of the Chief Academic Officer. She said achievement in special education is stagnant and lags state averages. The restructuring would affect special ed and bilingual education.
  • Reconfigure schools. Multiple grade configurations waste resources and makes it difficult to collect grade-level data and use that information to develop strategies for improvement. A PreK-5, grades 6-8 and 9-12 will streamline instruction and consolidate facilities to save money. A task force will make recommendations by April 15 and the first phase of a board-approved plan to change the geographic configuration and staffing of the district’s zone will be in the 2023 budget.
  • Work with the city to tackle chronic absenteeism as a joint priority.
  • Transition to neighborhood schools for kindergarten through grade 8.

Jallow said she could go on about the benefits of neighborhood schools on academic performance and district’s finances. She limited her comments to social/emotional effects.

“I think it will improve student and family engagement if people were closer to schools that they live by and can participate more actively and feel more connected to the school that’s part of their neighborhood.”

The neighborhood idea is not new. Beatriz LeBron said it had been talked about and data had been collected, but nothing had been done. She also said that she hears from residents who want neighborhood schools.

The superintendent’s plan laid out a process of continuous improvement based on the mission of fostering students’ individual talents and abilities in a climate of equity and a vision of ensuring equitable access to a high-quality education and graduating each student as a productive member of society.

The plan is centered on students, embraces diversity and commits to eradicating discrimination and oppression, respecting and honoring dignity, providing equitable resources for learning and being open about decisions regarding fiscal and resource allocation.

The plan includes a priority to create nontraditional ways to get families involved and to partner with businesses, higher education and other community organizations.