U of R says it’s working on a plan to hand East High School back to RCSD

Rochester school board votes to end East High-UR partnership

Rochester school board votes to end East High-UR partnership

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The University of Rochester says it’s working on a plan to hand East High School back to the Rochester City School District with the university’s partnership set to end in June 2025.

It comes after the RCSD School Board voted 4-3 on Thursday night to dissolved the university’s partnership with East High that has lasted for nearly a decade.

The U of R released a statement on Friday saying that, while the U of R’s leaders strongly advocated for extending the partnership, they accept the school board’s decision. The university says it’s extremely proud of what the partnership has accomplished, including a “complete school culture change filled with hope and possibility.”

During the partnership, graduation rates have more than doubled, going from 33% to 85%. Suspension have dropped and attendance has significantly increased. The university said the partnership “exceeded what many thought was possible nearly a decade ago when East High was on the brink of closure.”

Here is the full statement from the U of R:

“Since 2015, the University of Rochester has been committed to the East EPO under the established model and has been a key partner in the school’s turnaround and success, always prioritizing the needs of the children at the core of our efforts. We are grateful to the Rochester City School District, the Rochester Board of Education, and the New York State Education Department for this extraordinary opportunity to introduce a brand new model for student success at East Upper and Lower Schools—a model that we are extremely proud of as it has translated into the intended student success, created a complete school culture change filled with hope and possibility, and in many areas exceeded what many thought was possible nearly a decade ago when East High was on the brink of closure.”

“While University leaders strongly advocated for an extension of the EPO beyond June 2025 in order to maintain the same level of intentionality in a transition as in the formation of the EPO, we accept the decision to fully reintegrate East back into the RCSD educational system and conclude our EPO partnership a year and a half from now. Importantly, we will work with RCSD leaders during this time to create a transition plan that respects the East community of students, parents and families who have committed to the EPO model, as well as our outstanding administrators, teachers, and staff.”

“East looks very different today than it did before the EPO. At that time, East had a population on record of roughly 1,700 scholars, but only about 1,200 attended daily. Roughly one in three East high schoolers graduated on time. Together with the East community and broader community, we are grateful to have spearheaded the successful transition of East Upper School out of receivership status. The EPO’s work has improved graduation ratesto over 85 percent from the initial 33 percent in 2015; suspensions have been reduced; attendance and student engagement have significantly improved; and a school-to-University pipeline has been established. Throughout it all, we created the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) at the University’s Warner School of Education to capture the success, as well as lessons learned, of the EPO model. Moving forward, CUES will continue to serve as a robust clearinghouse of clinical and academic research and other resources to support urban schools and the challenges they face, and the University of Rochester will continue in different ways to be a partner in the work that supports the well-being and educational achievements of Rochester’s young adults.”

The district said the Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) cost up to $3 million a year and it needed to cut costs due to a declining enrollment.

“We have a viable model that is working and it is a tough decision — and I want to see us honor that model and the investment that we have made over the years,” said board member Amy Maloy before the vote. “And although tonight I will not be voting in favor of that, because I think that we have the ability to move this back under our supervision, I make this decision, I hope with the understanding that we are going to honor the model and continue the model under our leadership.”

Marlene Blocker, East EPO superintendent, remarked before the vote: “There is nothing I want more for every single child to not only be sustained at where they’re at but to elevate where they’re at. Whether it’s under the U of R, the RCSD or Freddy Flintstone. I care about kids and I put kids first. So while I support and respect everything that each individual has said, I just want to close by saying I pray, after giving eight and a half years of my life, bringing my son to East to be a graduate and to be a part of it, I pray that the RCSD ripples that impeded progress before the EPO took over do not suddenly surface as huge waves that crash the positive course we have taken and that U of R has helped charter.”