Mayor Facebook post asks people to call lawmakers, support NYS takeover of RCSD

May 30, 2019 11:21 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- The mayor of Rochester is answering questions about a video she posted on Facebook that calls for the community to support a takeover of the city school district.

In the video, the mayor asks people to call their state lawmakers and urge them to back this plan. The mayor also says she supports the state's idea of removing the elected school board and picking its own superintendent.  

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"As your mayor and as a mother," Mayor Warren said in the video. "I understand the plight of our parents who want to ensure that their children get a chance to live to their fullest potential."

The mayor's video was produced on the weekend and posted late Wednesday night. It includes children and parents. 

"Please contact our state legislators, your assembly person and senator, and ask them to support the commissioner's plan to fix Rochester city schools," said one unnamed parent in the video. 

The mayor's office says State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia's plan is spelled out in an email from local Regent T. Andrew Brown to the mayor's office last Friday. In the email, it calls for the "removal of BoE by Commissioner."

On Thursday at City Hall, the mayor was asked, why now? 

Mayor Lovely Warren: "How many kids do you want to lose? How many of them should be sacrificed? The time is now. What are we waiting for?"

You need a state law to let the education commissioner takeover and remove the elected school board, and the state lawmaker session ends in two and a half weeks. 

If a bill is passed and the takeover happens before the end of June, the mayor says the state could impose its own superintendent. 

At his first news conference Wednesday, News10NBC's Deanna Dewberry asked the new city school superintendent, picked by the school board, about a possible state takeover. 

Deanna Dewberry: "How do you react to that?"

Terry Dade, newly hired RCSD superintendent: "React in the same way that I did before the story broke, that I was hired by the school board to do one job and that was to provide the leadership necessary to make sure our students are getting the education they deserve."

News10NBC found out this kind of state control has only happened once in the history of New York state. 

It was 2002. 

The state education department took control of Roosevelt Union Free Schools on Long Island. 

In 2002, the on-time graduation rate was 42 percent. Last year, it was over 70.

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "So for those children in that Long Island district, the state taking over the school board worked."

Van White, president of Rochester City School Board: "That was over a 16-year period, correct? That increase. What we're talking about in the city school district in Rochester, our graduation rate is the highest it's been in 10 years."

Van White is the president of the Rochester City School Board. Remember, it's the board that would get removed by the state. 

White showed News10NBC how the graduation rate is going up. We met at East High School where he says, three years ago, the board worked to get the University of Rochester to run the school.

"Fast forward to 2018, 61 percent of our students graduate on time," White said pointing to data from the state education department. 

Brean: "Clearly the mayor is saying something drastic needs to happen. That's what she's saying."

White: "Well, that's what I said in 2007. That's what people across this community said. I'm not arguing with her that we need improvement. But as Teddy Roosevelt said, you can sit in the cheap seats and criticize what people are doing who are actually in the arena experiencing failure and experiencing success and the hope that comes from that. And that's what thousands of people are doing in this district, in this building. That's where the hope is."

The mayor repeated Thursday that the takeover is a state idea that she supports. 

Her Facebook video prompts people to contact the following state lawmakers: 

  • Assemlyman David Gantt
  • Assemblyman Harry Bronson
  • Assemblywoman Jamie Romeo
  • Senator Rich Funke
  • Senate Joe Robach

News10NBC checked with the lawmakers the mayor wants people to call. As of 6:30 p.m. Thursday, only one got back to us.

Assemblywoman Romeo, who replaced Joe Morelle, told us she's had no calls. She said her office received an email of an online petition opposing a government takeover of the district. 

Senator Funke posted on Facebook that he wants some change to the school system in the city but he wrote he does "not believe, however, that the school board should be abolished as some have suggested since it is an elected body and I respect the democratic process."


Berkeley Brean

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