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UR holds education symposium; colleges could lead city schools

Updated: 02/04/2014 6:17 PM
Created: 02/04/2014 12:26 PM WHEC.com
By: Amanda Ciavarri

School district officials say it is a crisis. On Tuesday, for the first time, Rochester City School leaders, the mayor and the University of Rochester staff came together to figure out a plan of attack to get Rochester schools back on track.

The Education Summit also included principals and leaders of charter schools, Hillside and the Rochester City School District. They shared ideas they believe work when it comes to improving education such as focusing more on summer programs. They also addressed problems like truancy and graduation rates, both which the superintendent of Rochester City Schools says are serious issues. Bolgen Vargas believes there is no one solution and it won’t be fixed overnight, but together he believes this group can make a positive change and Mayor Lovely Warren agrees.

Mayor Lovely Warren said, “As a community, education impacts us all. We see it when we look at our neighborhoods and our judicial system. I am here today because I recognize that and it is important we give every child in our city the opportunity to succeed, and that starts with a sound, basic education.”

Mayor Warren also announced City Hall will be forming an early learning commission, which will focus on developing programs and securing funding for Universal Pre-K. 

News10NBC also learned more about the proposal the superintendent made to have colleges and universities take over the management of schools in the city as a way to improve education. The superintendent says by the start of the 2015-2016 school year, he wants to see at least one school under full management by a college or university. Right now, News10NBC doesn’t know if that means a completely new school would be opening, or if the college would be taking over an existing building.

Superintendent Bolgen Vargas says he has spoken to several colleges, both in our area and outside the area about the potential partnership. News10NBC reached out to see what local colleges are throwing their name in the hat. RIT says they are not and that’s because they don’t have an education department. The College at Brockport and MCC are exploring the possibility. Superintendent Vargas told News10NBC why he believes a partnership would work.

Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, Rochester City School District, said, “The college community recognizes that the future depends on the success of our students is we don't get our children to graduate from high school, these universities are at risk also. This community's future is at risk unless we do a good job education our students.”

The whole process needs state approval before the school district can move forward with a college or university. 

News10NBC has statements from several area colleges about the possible partnership. 

RIT President Bill Destler:

"RIT does not have a College of Education, so it would be presumptuous to think that we could manage a city school, and our recently announced support of a new charter high school in Rochester was undertaken with the knowledge that school management will be provided by Uncommon Schools. We are, however, looking into ways in which we can expand our support for the city's STEM High School and other RCSD schools, and we are hoping to expand our very successful Rochester City Scholars Program as well."

MCC President Ann Kress: 

“MCC is currently partnering with the Rochester City School District on planning and implementing Rochester's first Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH ), a 9-14 high school in which graduates will earn both a high school diploma and a two-year college degree.  The P-TECH model offers significant potential to improve alternatives and opportunities for city students, connecting them to higher education and meaningful career pathways well before they finish high school.  

P-TECH has been held up as a model for school transformation by Governor Cuomo, President Obama and US Secretary of Education Duncan.  MCC is focusing its engagement and energy on this new high school. You can find more information on P-TECH on Governor Cuomo's web site. We are still very much in the planning stages but I'd be happy to connect you with someone for an interview when we are a little further along.

I don't have anything to offer on any other RCSD-MCC partnership at this time.”

Brockport President Dr. John R. Halstead

"We were pleased to meet today with a number of educational leaders in our community to discuss how we can work together to revitalize K-12 education in Rochester. We are proud to have numerous partnerships and initiatives with the Rochester City School District already in place and are always eager to consider ways in which we can further advance our support of K-12 education. Today's symposium was part of those ongoing efforts. We will continue to explore the request Superintendent Vargas has made of Rochester Area Colleges in order to make a decision that's true to our mission and is in the best interest of The College at Brockport."

University of Rochester President Joel Seligman 

"The University has no immediate plans to submit a proposal.  We are engaged in several other projects with the Rochester City School District and intend to continue these and where appropriate amplify them, such as a significant expansion of our involvement with the School District and the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection."  

The school board would still oversee the school, even with a college managing it. The board would also be in charge of making sure the college met its goal for the students.



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