RCSD superintendent forums draw low turnout

May 06, 2019 07:04 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- The four finalists for superintendent of the struggling Rochester City School District were in Rochester over the weekend.

Terry Dade, Dr. Devon Horton, Dr. Sito Narcoisse and Dr. George Eric Thomas took part in public forums to talk about their vision to move the district forward.


But the issue was not too many members of the public showed up to participate.  

The candidates each had a few hours to engage with students, parents, teachers and community members but both events on Saturday and Sunday were sparsely attended.

"I think parents could have showed up a little bit more, I mean this is very important. We're talking about the leadership of the entire district. This is the superintendent," says Evana Harvey, parent of three RCSD students.

Stephanie Watson is a city resident and attended the events.

"It was very disappointing to see that, on the same token, I do believe we are kind of broken. We're not really in tune, ya know... we say same thing, same thing. We've had a few of these superintendents come through and unfortunately, they didn't stay the course," she tells News10NBC.  

Of course in a school district where more than half of the children live in poverty there are reasons why their parents may not be able to make it.

"Some people may not have had transportation, some people may not have had babysitting, some people may face certain barriers that will keep them from physically coming out," Harvey says.

The president of the Rochester Teacher's Union was at both forums but wasn't surprised that only a handful of other educators showed up.

"Teachers have come to believe that they really don't have that much of a say when it comes to decisions of the Board of Education. I think a lot of teachers are jaded about this," says Adam Urbanski.

Van White, the president of the school board, says just because people didn't come in person, doesn't mean they're not interested.

The forums were all recorded and are now posted on the district's website. 

"This district has had some credibility problems. One of the ways to enhance that credibility is to be open and to show folks what you're doing, whether they can participate or not," he told News10NBC.   

There was some controversy from the start on how these four candidates were selected and that was brought up briefly at the forums.

"None of these candidates have served as superintendent in their prior districts and some local potential candidates have, so I can certainly understand why some of the community have concerns about the process," Urbanski says. 

But school board commissioner Beatriz LeBron says the community did take into consideration the wants of parents and community members before selecting the finalists. 

"We put together a collective profile of what we were looking for. Innovative thinker, someone who is data-driven, someone with experience in turning around schools, that's how the individuals were selected by the board," she explains.

LeBron stands behind the finalists and says the board is hoping to make some decisions in the near future.

"I'm a parent in this district so I'm looking at this with the same intensity as any other parent, that the next person coming in is going to be responsible for what schools look like, what direction it's going to go and the impact it's gonna have on my kid and every other parent in this district," she says.

To watch the forums and learn more about the finalists, click here.


Jennifer Lewke

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