‘The end of the beginning’: A plan to save East High School

June 30, 2014

President Joel Seligman, accompanied by (l-r): Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski, RCSD Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, School Board President Van White, ASAR President Deborah Rider, Angelina Rivera of the Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals, and NYS Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, announce an agreement among the University, the school board and unions to work on a plan to improve East High School.

Today, University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, Rochester City School Board Chair Van White, and the leaders of relevant labor unions associated with East High School announced that an essential step had been completed to allow East High School to remain open under an Educational Partnership Organization agreement.

At the request of the Rochester City School Board, the University has submitted a plan intended to administer East High School, the largest high school in Rochester which is on the verge of being closed by the State because of inadequate performance. Under a special state statute, the University will assume the role of an Educational Partnership Organization (EPO), the equivalent to becoming the superintendent for East High School.

The University’s EPO plan anticipates doubling East High School graduation rates from the current 42 percent to 84 percent over a seven-year period. The approach would revitalize a public high school, doing so with unionized employees, fully protecting their financial benefits.

“Today marks the end of the beginning. We now as a community can move forward with the next steps of submitting our plan to the Rochester City School Board for their official approval, and to the State Education Department for their approval,” said Seligman. “Agreement with local unions, as required by the State, was critical to our ability to proceed with the partnership.

“There will be other key steps as we proceed, including development of an operational plan by December and approval by the East High School teachers. If all continues to go well, the University of Rochester looks forward to proceeding to serve as the EPO for East High School, with the goal of dramatically improving the lives of students.”

Seligman noted that the next few months will be dedicated to meeting with local partners, teachers, parents, and community members to refine the EPO plan for final submission to the state in December.  These efforts will be led by Professor Steve Uebbing of the Warner School of Education. Uebbing brings long experience as a school superintendent to these efforts.

“I am deeply grateful for the support and contributions from all involved in this process to date, including Superintendent Bolgen Vargas; Rochester City School Board President Van White; Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren; Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski and union leaders Deb Ryder (Association of Supervisors and Administrators of Rochester—ASAR), Dan DiClemente (Board of Education Non-Teaching Employees—BENTE), and Marge Brumfield (Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals—RAP); East High School Principal Anibal Soler; and Wade Norwood, member of the New York State Board of Regents. “Some efforts take a village. This one took an even broader community,” said Seligman.

“Let me also especially thank Warner School Dean Raffaella Borasi and faculty; University General Counsel Gail Norris; and Bethany Centrone, chief of Human Capital Initiatives at Rochester City School District, for their indefatigable efforts. There are many heroes in this process.

“I want to emphasize that this process is not achievable without the support of East High School teachers, students, parents and community members, to all of whom I express my gratitude. We look forward to working with all stakeholders as we prepare the full operational plan over the coming months.”

The Executive Summary of the University of Rochester EPO application is online at: http://www.rochester.edu/pdfs/RCSD-EPO-executive-summary.pdf.

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