District presents ‘state of the schools’

ROCHESTER — The Rochester City School District is expected to name a new superintendent by the end of this school year, according to Malik Evans, school board president.

Evans spoke about the superintendent search process during the "State of the Schools" report held Jan. 24 at Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School Foundation Academy.

He also presented the board’s goals for 2012, which includes increasing academic achievement, improving school safety, providing fiscal oversight and accountability, and raising customer service standards. The board also would not only like to boost the graduation rate but also improve the college readiness rate, which he acknowledges is "abysmal," he added.

An expected $41 million budget shortfall for 2012-13 will be addressed through and expected increase in state aid and streamlining costs for contracts, programs and staffing through a hiring freeze at central office and using those staff members as substitutes as necessary, as well as cutting consultants, travel and printing, explained interim Superintendent Bolgen Vargas.

"We will do everything possible to maintain or improve successful programs, which include art, music and sports in every school," he said.

The school system also needs increased involvement from parents and community to meet its goals for improving student achievement, concurred Evans and Vargas.

"We want to create demand parents," Evans said.

To boost student achievement, another avenue being explored is extending the length of the school day and school year, Vargas said. With support from the Rochester Teachers Association, the district has secured funds to add hours and weeks for instruction as needed, he said.

"A good place to start is with our most needy students," Vargas noted.

Depending on the success of this pilot program, the district will consider expanding the option to other students, he added.

He also is proposing an alternative program for students in the district’s phase-out schools who are at most risk for not attending and not graduating, Vargas explained. This alternative school could offer flexible schedules to help these students get back on track, he said.

Throughout the district, he said, the goal is to set "high expectations for attendance, behavior and effort," Vargas remarked.

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