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RCSD seeks extension for East High plan
Rochester, N.Y. -- Up against a deadline from the state, the Rochester City School District was supposed to make a decision about the future of East High School at a special meeting Tuesday night.
The crowd expected to hear the Board of Education's final recommendation, but then board President Van White made an announcement that stunned the room: The University of Rochester is interested in turning things around at East High.
Superintendent Bolgen Vargas made his recommendation, a plan to phase in a new school.
Beginning in September 2015, the proposal includes year-long programs and nine class periods a day, with more neighborhood kids and more family involvement.
It took weeks to put together, but Vargas said that his proposed plan to phase in a new school is not his first choice for East High and he wants the state to give the district more time.
"The district needs fresh ideas," Vargas said, adding the best thing would be a strong educational partnership organization, like a university, to take control of East High. "They have valuable resources and they could provide an extraordinary fresh perspective, new energy that this community desperately needs."
Nine days before the district has to submit a proposal to the State Department of Education, University of Rochester President Joel Seligman sent a letter of intent to the state expressing interest in partnering with East High.
"This is our home, these are our friends and neighbor's and I think the board president has made a powerful case that we need to come together to support the Rochester City School District," said U of R professor Stephen Uebbing.
At the meeting Tuesday, Uebbing said the university initially did not offer to become an educational partnership organization because six weeks was not enough time to develop a well-thought-out proposal.
White signed a letter to be sent to New York State Commissioner of Education John King to ask for an extension to give the U of R more time to put something together.
"We need to get Dr. King to give us more time," said parent Karen Fox. "You cannot come in, stomp your feet, and say this is what you need to do."
Her son is a freshman at East High. Fox said a rushed solution won't fix anything and she doesn't want a backup plan to be something the 1,800 students will have to deal with.
"The whole phase-in, phase-out does not work," she said. "We've seen that in the past. It doesn't work."
As of now, the district has until May 15 to submit a proposal to the state.
If an extension is granted, the U of R would submit a plan and the city Board of Education would then vote to pick which option it thinks is best.
That recommendation is taken under consideration, but ultimately the State Education Department will make the final decision.