Assemblyman Bronson's pitch for alternate plan of RCSD receives mixed reactions

June 13, 2019 11:38 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Rochester school leaders declared a new plan to invite state involvement in the reform of the city's schools a "mixed bag," while Mayor Lovely Warren rejected the idea.

"To try and institute, or rush through something just to say you did something, that is wrong. And that is completely offensive. It's offensive," Warren exclaimed.


On Thursday, state Assemblyman Harry Bronson unveiled what he called the "Rochester City School District Empowerment Act" to reform the city's struggling school, a measure that stops far short of the state takeover Warren had been advocating.

The mayor has been calling for a referendum this fall by city voters in support of a possible state law to have the state take over the school system and replace the school board.

Bronson's proposal would emphasize community schools, require the school board to get more training, follow the recommendations of the state's special consultant, the distinguished educator, and set up a special children's advisory council to advocate for the students.

Van White, president of the school board, said the intense back and forth between Warren and Bronson was much like what the school board is often accused of.  

"They haven't even cracked a binder, look at a lesson plan, and insults are being hurled at one another," White said.

Bronson tells News10NBC his plan would not necessarily preempt a referendum or even a future state law to take over the district, but that it would mandate improvement faster and could even be done in the final weeks of this current legislative session.

"I would much rather work on behalf of the children and students of the school district right now," he said. "And require the district to take action… right now, to put mechanisms and systems in place… right now to turn the school district around." 

Mayor Warren says the proposal does nothing the school district's current leadership can't do already and that the proposed advisory council could actually short change the influence of Rochester families.

White shared Warren's skepticism of another new advisory council.

"We've got advisory councils coming out of the ying-yang In this district. That is part of our problem," he declared.  "Our superintendent is being pulled… and the board of education… is being pulled… in 20 different ways by 20 different interest groups."

Board members insisted they weren't seeking to hold onto power in the face of a possible state takeover that would effectively sideline them but questioned whether handing all control over to the state served the interests of Rochester students and their families. 

"The mayor is asking voters to use their voice, in voting, to remove their ability to vote," said board member Beatriz LeBron.  "It's very bizarre to me."

The referendum proposal did attract support across the aisle. Senator Rich Funke came down on the side of the vote. 

In a tweet Thursday, he said, "No plan should go forward without a vote of and the approval of the people of the City of Rochester."

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo sent out a statement Thursday also supporting the vote saying, "I agree wholeheartedly with Mayor Warren. What families in the city school district need is real, meaningful education reform, not more watered-down solutions from the same politicians who have been a part of the problem."

Bronson says his plan could allow for reforms to start sooner and could even be approved in the remaining days of this legislative session.He says important bills certainly have been passed that quickly before.


Charles Molineaux

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