The new superintendent of the Rochester City School District will be entering the role at a challenging time.
Many are optimistic that Terry Dade can help turn the district around – but some remain skeptical.
With a new leader at the helm, Zayra Lespier, who has two children in the district, said she’ll be paying close attention.
“I just don’t want someone else who is going to come into the picture and talk the talk and not actually walk the walk,” she said.
Lespier believes there needs to be more community engagement with local leadership to bring about transformative change.
“Hands on deck approach, boots on the ground approach: because there’s a lot of work to do,” she said.
State-mandated consultant Dr. Jaime Aquino agrees, saying Dade will need to work with parents, teachers and school leaders to improve graduation scores and rates.
“The parents and the community have been left out,” said Aquino. “They feel they’ve been neglected, like their voices have not been heard. But they’re eager. They’re eager to reengage with the district.”
But Mayor Lovely Warren says turning the struggling schools around won’t come by changing leadership, adding the system needs to change – not the people.
She believes that change starts at the state.
“We will continue to advocate on a state level for changes we believe the commissioner is working on,” Warren said. “They deserve a fighting chance for their future. We have one chance to give that to them. I’m not confident by switching leaders we will change the outcomes for our children. We have a system is in crisis and the system needs to change.”
Warren said she has not met Dade, but says his current school district in Fairfax, Va. is more affluent than Rochester and doesn’t necessarily have the challenges RCSD does.
Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski argues that Dade’s former district is comparable to Rochester in its diversity and number of students.
“We know that if he succeeds, we all succeed, and especially the students succeed,” said Urbanski.
Dade says he’s confident his three-to-five-year strategic plan can turn the schools around. Urbanski said he’s hopeful Dade will see what needs to be changed and start working on it well before that.
“The kids who are in our schools right now, they can’t afford three to five years,” he said. “They’re going to school right now. I think improvements have to start immediately.”
The new superintendent will start July 1.
— WHAM 13