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NYS Exposed Education: How will the new RCSD Superintendent help the district?

September 01, 2016 06:40 PM

ROCHESTER -- Next week, more than 27,000 students in the City of Rochester will be heading back to school. Back to a district that has consistently been the lowest performing in the state, a district where dozens of schools are failing. But, there's now a new superintendent at the helm and News10NBC caught up with her to see how she plans on changing the tide.

Barbara Deane-Williams says she will spend the first 100 days on the job just listening to teachers, parents and students. She won't be making any decisions about the future of the district until after that.

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The ultimate goal for the district is to get graduation rates up. Currently, only 51 percent of students who enter the district, graduate on-time. Kevin Presha’s son got his diploma on Wednesday evening with hundreds of other summer grads. "We kind of dragged him, he's like the last one to graduate but I was like pulling him along. I'm not really pleased with the city school district, it's the parents getting involved and getting their kids through and pushing them along that's good,” Presha says.

Many of the graduates who received their diplomas alongside Presha’s son went to a failing school, many live in poverty, some are facing family or medical issues. So, what's the plan to turn things around and help get more students across the graduation stage? We took that question to the new Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams.

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC): "Parents in this district have heard year after year that we are failing. Schools have bad graduation rates, bad test scores, what should make them optimistic about you being at the helm?"

Barbara Deane-Williams: "I think what I'm seeing so far and I've only been here three weeks, but there are some incredibly strong systems in place and some strong programs in place, I think we need to step back and identify bright spots, see where we're doing well and look for ways to build bridges and relationships."

Jennifer Lewke: "What are some of your top priorities moving into this new school year?"

Barbara Deane-Williams: "My top priorities are really to listen and learn, I'm spending my first 100 days getting to understand how the system operates. What I want to do is really understand the current system. I think that coming in with ideas or things that we might try, really doesn't provide me then the opportunity to listen deeply to what's already been tried, what we are currently doing, what people's hopes and dreams are for the future."

Jennifer Lewke: "But I'm guessing in your interview process, you had to explain some things that you would do for the district moving forward?"

Barbara Deane-Williams: "What I explained was I would come in, listen very carefully, take time to study the reports, the data and the information."

The superintendent was adamant, she’s not making any major decisions until November 15, so News10NBC checked with Rochester Central School District Board of Education President Van White.

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC): "Why do I have to wait 100 days to see what the superintendent wants to do Was that something you asked her to do -- sit back, listen, understand -- or is that something she wanted to do moving forward?"

Van White: "When she was interviewed here, she indicated that was her plan. There's no doubt not a single detractor who would say Barbara Deane-Williams doesn't have the experience to go in and start putting things in place right away but that’s the wisdom of an experienced leader, to understand that there are nuances and differences between Greece and Boston that require study first."

Jennifer Lewke: "What are you hoping for as we head into a new school year with a new superintendent?"

Van White: "The district, certainly in the last 2-3 years, has made every effort to improve its game, improve the outcomes for the district. The evidence is the numbers, ELA scores, math scores, most importantly attendance rates have gone up. To the parent, I say, 'We've got a foundation in place, we're building upon that.' As Barbara Deane-Williams said, 'There are pockets of excellence in this district, she will build upon that, the community will build upon that, the board will build upon that and we’ll do it together as a team.'"

Credits

Jennifer Lewke

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