Commissioner compassionate about helping students, families
EMC photo by Jeff Witherow
By Ketsia Rodríguez/EMC
Beatriz LeBron had to work hard to support her family when she came to Rochester from the Bronx as a 19-year-old mother. Those experiences, as well as three years of working as a substitute teacher in the Rochester City School District, made her passionate about helping disadvantaged communities that need support, advocacy and resources.
“I was a teen mom, and it was hard. I had to work full time and finish high school full time. When I went to college, it was the same until I ended up going part time and worked two jobs to support my girls. Back then, I did not drive, so I had to walk and commute on (city buses),” recalled LeBron, who was sworn in Jan. 3 as a commissioner on the board of education. “We all do what we need to do to take care of our children and make sure we survive. These experiences have really helped me be a strong advocate for families out here struggling.”
LeBron’s two daughters graduated from the district in 2015 and 2016, and she currently has a second-grader at The Children’s School of Rochester, No. 15.
“I, like many other parents, got involved when my girls started attending school. I tried to be involved at their school PTA, school functions and events,” said LeBron, who finished serving the first year of a two-year appointment to the board of education after winning a special election in 2018. She was originally filling out a term that was vacated by Malik Evans, who was elected to the Rochester City Council. LeBron was sworn in on Jan. 3 to finish the appointment. This fall, she will stand for election to her own four-year term.
However, it was working as an RCSD employee that enabled LeBron to experience firsthand the injustices students faced.
“A few years ago, I worked as a long-term substitute teacher in special education and bilingual education, and it was that experience that prompted me to run” for the school board, said LeBron, who said her experiences as a school parent and as a former district employee well prepared her for service on the board of education.
She said transitioning from parent to employee felt like visiting a different world, with classrooms short on resources and support for teachers, and burdened by the impact of decisions made by the board of education, whose members she had never encountered while working through 2015 at East High and schools No. 8, No. 17 and No. 44.
LeBron has spent more than a decade advocating for families throughout the City of Rochester. She currently is a community health worker with Rochester Regional Health and the local coordinator for the Children’s Leadership Development Program, a national program that focus on teaching children and parents to be effective leaders in their communities.
Although the RCSD website notes that Latino students are the district’s second-largest demographic group, LeBron pointed out that she is the only Hispanic on a school board of seven. The district reports Latino students as having the lowest graduation rate of all students.
To address these concerns, LeBron said she plans to work on ensuring that translation services are available throughout the district.
“The board needs to ensure all students have the tools necessary to learn. We clearly have two areas that are broken and impact the district overall, this is special education and multiple-language students,” LeBron said.
LeBron earned her associate’s degree at Monroe Community College, then a bachelor’s in communications from St. John Fisher College, with a concentration in public relations and a minor in economics. She also is a graduate of the United Way’s Latino Leadership Development Program and a member of the Latino Alliance Political Academy at the University of Rochester.
She said she attempts to use the network she has developed at Rochester Regional Health to connect families to health resources and services. She also works with Families in Transition and the Bilingual Academy, organizations in place to help Puerto Ricans who relocated to Rochester after Hurricane Maria. LeBron said she also hopes to further form community partnerships to help get students enrolled at the academy and receiving services and resources they need at no additional cost to the RCSD.
LeBron said she believes kids in the district need to see themselves in leadership roles, so she tries to demonstrate her leadership as a model for young Hispanics by working to build relationships with teachers and students in the schools to which she is assigned to as a liaison for the board.
She said her focus this year will be on working with her fellow commissioners to ensure implementation of the recommendations in the Distinguished Educator Report by Jaime Aquino, who issued 106 findings and 84 recommendations for the support and advancement of the district (see related story, page 4). Aquino had been appointed as Distinguished Educator for the RCSD by the New York State Board of Education in response to years of underperformance by the district.
“It takes a lot of hard work, and there are no shortcuts to hard work. I believe that every adult who works in the district has the responsibility to support families, this includes school board members. We need change, and we need it now,” LeBron observed.