School district names first female superintendent

ROCHESTER — A former Greece superintendent has become the first woman to be named head of the Rochester City School District.

The school board unanimously approved a three-year contract with Barbara Deane-Williams during a special meeting on July 18. She will receive a $225,000 annual salary.

Deane-Williams replaces Linda Cimusz, who was hired in December 2015 as interim chief of staff and stepped into the role of interim superintendent on Jan. 18 following the brief tenure of Daniel Lowengard. Lowengard stepped down after suffering a stroke during his first official week on the job as interim superintendent. He had replaced outgoing superintendent Bolgen Vargas, who resigned last fall and was to serve as a consultant through the end of his four-year contract in June.

Deane-Williams will officially take on her new role Aug. 8, said Van White, school board president.

"It is good to know on this day that the Rochester City School District has broken the glass ceiling (which) was long past due," he added.

Deane-Williams had most recently worked as deputy superintendent for Boston Public Schools. She said she had recently renewed her contract with Boston for a year when she was contacted by a search firm, Western New York Educational Services Corp., hired by the district. The board’s initial candidate declined the job late this past spring, White said.

Prior to Boston, she served as superintendent of the Greece Central School District from 2011-15. During her tenure in Greece, she led the development of the  EnVision Greece 2017 Strategic Plan, establishing an expectation for high-quality schools and increasing the number of college and career-ready high-school graduates.

She also had been superintendent of the Lyndonville Central School District from 2005-11 and had worked in administrative roles in the Churchville-Chili School District from 1992-2003.

"One of the things that really impressed me is her experience working with other models and her experience working with other systems," board member José Cruz said during the July 18 special meeting. "There is no question about her commitment to children."

In addition to serving in a neighboring district, she also has connections to Rochester staff and organizations in the community, White said. In Boston, she oversaw a district that closely mirrors the diversity found in Rochester schools, he added.

"I believe she will be a strong partner to teachers and to parents," said Adam Urbanski, head of the Rochester Teachers Union.

Deane-Williams said her first priorities when she begins her new role will be to have schools ready for the start of classes in the fall. She also will conduct a listening tour during her first 100 days in office.

"I believe Rochester holds great promise in being the best urban district in New York state," she said. "We have a strong, committed board and strong community partnerships … in a city ready to take the resources that we have in Rochester and make sure that our public schools mirror the quality of supports and services across the city."

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