East High set to lose U of R partnership in 2025

East High School

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – If you’re familiar with how things are run at East High School in the City of Rochester, you’re probably aware of its partnership with the University of Rochester.

For nearly 10 years, the school has set itself apart from the Rochester City School District, with a different administration. It’s technically in the RCSD, but with a different set of leaders, programs and scheduling.

In the next year or so, things could look a little different.

The contract between East High and the University of Rochester is set to expire in June of 2025. The partnership, also known as an EPO (educational partnership operation), started in 2014, and was renewed for another five years in 2019.

When it ends, the school would go back under the district’s full jurisdiction.

The school’s superintendent, Marlene Blocker, said in the time East has partnered with the U of R, it’s been able to improve graduation rates, exam scores, and overall school culture.

“We are the ones that have worked through the process the last eight and a half years,” she said.

Now that the contract is set to expire in June of 2025, Blocker said not enough has been done to prepare for it. She’s hoping they can extend it a few years. But if there’s going to be a transition, Blocker said there needs to be more collaboration among all parties to ensure success continues.

“We are proposing that the RCSD and East work collaboratively, to understand what pieces are in place here, that have brought us from the point of being persistently dangerous and failing, to now being a school that is successful and thriving,” said Blocker.

RCSD superintendent Dr. Carmine Peluso acknowledges East’s progress, but said for too long, the district has had limited control in what goes on there, and there’s too much of a separation between them.

“We’ve had the ability to learn from what has worked, and implement that,” said Peluso. “And we could come to an agreement with Rochester Teachers Association, the unions, to continue that without losing what has been done.”

“The East model does cost a little bit more per student than the average student population is, so there is a cost associated with it,” said Peluso. “But I think now, there is a way to make that even more sustainable, if we look at what some of the partnerships are, what are some of the additional costs associated, and remove some of those layers that may not be working.”

RTA President Adam Urbanski said he doesn’t view this as an “us vs. them” situation.

The ultimate goal, he says, is to figure out how to implement the same success East has had into all the other schools.

“This should be afforded, not only to one school, but to all schools, where students need additional support,” said Urbanski.

Ultimately, the Board of Education will decide how to move forward. Urbanski said the New York State Department of Education will weigh in on any recommendations for the board.

“The question is whether or not East High should come back to superintendent portfolio, so it would become entirely a part of the district, and whether the district will approve the additional funding the school receives in order to become more successful,” said Urbanski.

The University of Rochester says in a statement it would be deeply disappointed if the contract expires for good. It says any transition plan should require careful planning, including a process for sharing all the lessons learned in the partnership, with the district.

The U of R said leaders will remain engaged in the discussions to determine the future of the East EPO beyond 2025.