The future of East High

Updated: 06/23/2014 10:18 AM
Created: 05/07/2014 6:24 PM WHEC.com
By: Berkeley Brean

Is the University of Rochester what East High really needs? The University of Rochester is offering to take over the failing high school, but says it needs more time. News10NBC is asking the state if it is willing to give it.

The University of Rochester kind of shocked everyone Tuesday night when it revealed it is willing to run East High School and work to turn the school around. The state says a new plan for East has to be in place by next Thursday. The UR says it needs an extension until next year.

The university has never done something like this before. It has a laundry list of guarantees it wants. Under the plan, long time professor and a former school superintendent Stephen Uebbing would be the superintendent for East.

Dr. Stephen Uebbing, UR professor, said, “I think we can offer a frame of reference that hopefully would put the school in a much better position.”

Dr. Bolgen Vargas, Rochester City School District Superintendent, said, “For over a year, I’ve been asking colleges and universities to step to the plate.”

But change isn't easy. The University of Rochester spelled out its list of demands in a letter to the state education commissioner.  They want new contract agreements with all four unions at East High by July 1. They want total control of staffing and curriculum and longer school days. The university wants current East High Principal Anibal Soler back, at least for next year. The biggest demand is an extension until next February to officially submit its proposal.

Dr. Uebbing said, “So we are actually proposing to do a proposal at this stage.”

Van White, Rochester City School Board President, said, “What they're doing is sticking their necks out and saying, ‘Give this community more time.’”

In the crowd Tuesday night was East High teacher and East High alum Paul Jonasse.

Paul Jonasse, East High teacher, said, “They're local. They have a strong interest in this and I think it's fantastic.”

The biggest issue is the delay. Right now, the state isn't budging. The New York State Department of Education had recent conversations with the Rochester City School Board and the district. They’re aware of the University of Rochester‘s plan. They’re going to wait to make changes until they get a formal letter from the school board about the plan. That letter was mailed Wednesday.

If the extension is granted until next year, the plan says the University of Rochester would run East High School in September with the current principal. The proposal says they would use next school year as a test to see what works and what doesn't. Then they take over fully in the fall of 2015.

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