UR promotes Nelms to newly established post

Print More

Shaun Nelms has been tasked with strengthening the University of Rochester’s commitment to the city and the region. The superintendent of the East Educational Partnership Organization has been appointed vice president of community partnerships.

Established by UR president Sarah Mangelsdorf, the new role is designed to give new structure to the institution’s work with local and national partners. Nelms will develop an actionable plan for cultivating and stewarding productive collaborations in support of the university’s new strategic plan.

“Shaun is a visionary leader who for the past eight years has led a revolutionary partnership that could be a model for K-12 transformation,” says Mangelsdorf. “His extraordinary work at East High School and the Warner School of Education has inspired us to think more broadly about the role innovative partnerships can play at the university level. 

“If we are to have the greatest impact we can—in Rochester and around the world—we must work together with other academic institutions, with community organizations, and the corporate sector in a more strategic and organized way.”

Nelms will report to Mangelsdorf and work with the provost for community-based learning opportunities and research, including those at the Center for Urban Education Success. He will continue to serve as the William & Sheila Konar Director of CUES, and as a clinical professor of educational leadership at the Warner School.

Shaun Nelms
(Photo by Laura Brophy/University of Rochester)

Nelms has played an instrumental role in leading an educational partnership model between East High School—a school in the Rochester City School District—and UR. The partnership has become a model for academic and culture transformation in urban K-12 education. It will continue with the appointment of Marlene Blocker, current East EPO principal and a longtime RCSD teacher and administrator, as its new superintendent.

“The university remains firmly committed to the East EPO and CUES and we’re thrilled with the continued success of both models,” says Warner School dean Sarah Peyre. “Shaun is one of Rochester’s most respected and thoughtful community leaders because of this leadership and it’s natural that in his new role as vice president for community partnerships he will be able to continue advocating for East while establishing and promoting greater community engagement between the university and Rochester.”  

One of the city’s oldest schools, East High needed help in 2015. It was slated to close for being unable to meet state standards for several years. The EPO was launched in agreement with RCSD, New York, the East High School community and UR.

The model worked, officials say. Under Nelms, the EPO has been successful in addressing disparities in urban education to change student outcomes, while surpassing the goal to double the graduation rate of East students, UR says. Since 2015, the four-year graduation rate increased from 33 percent to 85 percent, the attendance rate has grown from 77 percent to 90 percent, and the drop-out rate has declined from 41 percent to 15 percent.

East’s career and technical education programs have expanded to include culinary arts, information technology, computer technology, biomedical health sciences, business and computer essentials, precision optics, teaching and learning, and vision care.

In 2021, the state Education Department extended the EPO through 2025.

“It has been a true privilege to work alongside East EPO educators, parents and community members for the past eight years to rebuild the foundation of a great school,” Nelms says. “In working with the University of Rochester and its Warner School, we have been able to provide scholars at East real opportunities to succeed, a safe environment to grow, and we’ve been given the support and resources to innovate in spaces where despair was more often greater than hope.”

In joining UR’s community partnership and engagement efforts, he hopes to cultivate stronger and meaningful relationships with the city, Monroe County and the region.

Nelms and Blocker start their new positions on July 1.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

5 thoughts on “UR promotes Nelms to newly established post

  1. To Josh Porte
    Have you read Your Children are Very Greatly In Danger by Justin Murphy? When I read it, I was able to locate myself and my experience growing up in RCSD and the book helped me see things I had not seen before about how the system was complicit in the serious limitations as well as the strengths of my education. It doesn’t take all that money to spread the “innovations” at East High to other RCSD schools. East High leadership has shown it can be done – and students “get it”. Change requires strong support from RCSD administration and school board. Students themselves get inspiration from serious efforts to make positive change and respond. So who is going to pick up the reins when a way forward has been demonstrated? It takes will, leadership, and commitment to culture change at all levels from all involved in education in RCSD as well as from those who support such change. We tend to use excuses, like not enough money, to thwart change from a distance, instead of becoming a part of that change from closer up engagement.

  2. “EAST High School Success Secrets Revealed” (The Book)
    I wish Dr. Nelms all the best in his new position, at the University of Rochester.
    But when will the rest of us, learn about what factors turned East Low into East High?
    I hope Dr. Nelms and the staff at UR will clue us in, very soon. We need to know what can be done to uplift every school and every student in the Rochester School District, and beyond.

    How about a book, and a web page, filled with great ideas from the East High experience?

    In addition, when will RCSD invited outside people to contribute their own concerns, ideas and talents, to turn things around in our schools. The clock is ticking, every day. Why must we wait?
    http://www.SavingSchools.org Best Wishes Dr. Shaun Nelms!

  3. Please, someone answer the following question, WHY HAS THE EAST HIGH/U OF R SUCESS NOT BEEN REPLICATED? Why is that school basking in success and the remainder of the RCSD in shambles. Does it appear to be an issue of equity? In my book it does, but not everyone reads the same playbook. That said, an answer would be appreciated.
    PS Congrats on the promotions associated with the East High rescue effort.

  4. Terrific news! Thank you for this report. I have been in the East High School buildings for an anti-racism conference and appreciate what responsive environmental/cultural settings can do to create motivation, pride and identity encouragement. The environmental/cultural milieu is a wonderful part of the transformation that has been occurring there. It is critically supportive to the terrific work of school leadership–including administrators, counselors, health providers and most of all the students, who get inspiration from all directions. I am thrilled that this transformation and leadership is being recognized by the University and the Warner School and broadened in this way to benefit the greater community. Kudos to all involved.

    • Madeline, why has this not been replicated throughout the RCSD? Did this come up at the Anti-Racism Conference you attended? The fact that it has not is an equity problem the size of the RCSD. If it can be done at East High, it can be done in the other schools. The U of R and Warner School did not donate their time. I believe it was financed by the taxpayer. Maybe that’s why the quality education train only stops at East High. I am amazed that someone hasn’t stepped up and said….enough. We want all of our urban kids to receive a quality education. That mission would have to be completed without the U of R and the Warner School based on the dollars. Unless of course, the state would plunk down $10,000,000.00 to get that done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *