East superintendent shares budget draft with RCSD board

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The expected exit from receivership of East’s Upper School would mean a loss of $325,000 in funding. However, other sources of funds, including Title I, are anticipated to continue.

Those were among the details that East superintendent Marlene Blocker shared with the Rochester City School Board last week.

“We are slated to be removed from receivership at the Upper School,” Blocker said, referring to the status given to underperforming schools. “So, prioritization of needs has to take place once final numbers are available.”

Funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allowed for hiring in a number of positions at the school. Of those, a bilingual social worker position, special education teacher specializing in work-based learning, community job coordinator, and attendance assistant for the Lower School will remain. Two school security officer positions and two building subs for both the Lower and Upper schools will be eliminated.

Non-employment factors at East that were funded by ARP include literacy programs, career and technical education transportation, school and summer professional development, and teacher leader training programs.

East was put into receivership and created an education partnership organization with UR in the 2015-2016 school year. Since then, the school has improved student outcomes including graduation rates and Regents exam performance. Some members of the board, however, have scrutinized East in relation to distribution of resources and control, putting the EPO’s existence into uncertainty.

The 2024-2025 draft budget of $23 million is an $870,000 increase from the previous year. Expenses will remain relatively unchanged with salaries making up 94 percent of the total in both years.

“(At a previous meeting), it was shared that RSCD’s projected general fund would total $902 million,” said Blocker. “The current East budget that is projected for next year represents 2.4 percent of the total amount of money allocated to the RSCD in revenue at this point.”

That percentage for East is in line with previous years’ budgets. However, spending per pupil does remain higher at that school than others serving the same number of students, which is a point often used by critics.

“There are schools performing much better than East, and not costing us as much,” RCSD board vice president Beatriz LeBron said at a previous meeting about the EPO. “I just don’t see how the state itself could support this kind of contract agreement after five years and still seeing numbers in receivership.”

Prior to Blocker’s presentation, several speakers voiced support for the East EPO including Kyle Crandall, a registrar at the school.

“If the EPO ends on June 30, 2025, and the RSCD takes East back without the EPO, it will be viewed as a hostile takeover,” Crandall said. “The result will lead to many of our teachers resigning from the district to take different jobs. Our families will pull their students and send them to charter schools, meaning the money you thought you’d save will be signed away in a check to charter schools. East will be back to where it was 10 years ago, which was in an identity crisis and a complete rebuild.

“Please agree to a three-year extension where (RCSD superintendent Carmine) Peluso’s transition team, which will include key stakeholders from the RSCD and East, can negotiate in good faith what each year will look like to make this a smooth transition,” he added.

Currently, the RSCD general fund balance is at $1.03 billion for the 2023-2024 school year, of which $61 million in ARP funding needs to be allocated by the end of June.

RCSD officials are confident in their spending progress so far, but, similar to East, employment numbers have been affected for the 2024-2025 budget draft.

At a previous meeting, Peluso indicated that several custodian and school psychologist intern positions will remain unchanged in the upcoming year. Certain positions–per-diem building teacher, ROC Urban Teaching Fellow, counselor, project implementation, school sentry, and teacher on assignment–will be reduced while roll-up teacher positions, a measure begun during the pandemic where part-time teachers were “rolled-up” to full time for enrichment or school support, will be entirely eliminated.

“In our teachers’ association contract, we had 25 building sub (positions) that we need to fill,” said Peluso, citing a recent example. “Two years ago, none of them were in the general fund budget, they were all (covered by) ARP. Last year, we brought back 12 of those positions to be in the general fund. We have to bring back the remaining 13 this year.”

In alignment with the board’s goals, the 2024-2025 proposal increases investment in early literacy and special education, while reductions in central office staffing and contracted services are still being determined.

While the more than $900 million district proposal anticipates a slight decrease in federal funding, state funding, through transportation aid, as well as interest-earning revenue at the local level should increase relative to last year. In addition, it predicts the rising trend of charter school enrollment will also continue, giving more school transitional aid.

Jaime Alicea, the state monitor for RSCD, received the draft for examination at the beginning of March. A budget book, along with a presentation from Alicea, is set for March 20, with a budget hearing at City Council to be held at the end of April.

The fate of the EPO at East is slated to be determined later this month.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. 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]

4 thoughts on “East superintendent shares budget draft with RCSD board

  1. Say: SORRY – SORRY – SORRY!
    East HS and Rochester City School District can surely do much better, with or without extra budget additions. They just have to be more open to OUTSIDE IDEAS. Saying SORRY, over and over again, might help RCSD people to open their hearts and minds to improvements.
    Let me recommend a SORRY button, from ZanyToys.com, at a cost of $12, postpaid.
    Seriously. I know how hard it can be to admit that we are not listening to advice for change. In my own college teaching career, I often ignored feedback and rejection.
    But 15 years, ago, I started a webpage: http://www.SavingSchools.org where I store advice on education and other areas. My page is open to the public, at no cost. RCSD people, can start their own web pages, with advice for students, teachers and parents. It does not take a lot of time and money to start.
    Let me end by saying SORRY to East HS and RCSD. I wish you all the best. I hope you wake up.
    http://www.SavingSchools.org Thanks and Good luck

    • Harry S. Pesarle, with the dollars spent, dollars allocated and the many years of that effort, they ought to be at the stage of owning an easy button. You know that big read button sold at Staples. At some point they have to realize that the traditional education aint gonna get the job done. A comprehensive vocational education would certainly help kids find their innate skill or gift. You can’t keep boring kids with the academics and expecting them to stay the course. The number one question asked by dropouts is,”what do I need this s— for anyway?” Why not proactively answer that question? Why not show kids professions and careers early on in their education journey. The many, many opportunities that exist. You have to create a “wow” journey or a “that’s cool” journey. There was a school once upon a time that was the crown jewel of the RCSD. They destroyed that school, period. Let’s look at what could work from the failure of the past instead of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Insanity.

  2. Our RCSD/RCSB at work. You can allocate, shuffle, or do any other financial dance in your playbook, but the bottom line ought to be…..RESULTS! From what I hear those results are once again going to take a hit. Once again we see a downward trend on the scores. But I have an answer for the Rochester City educational leadership…..reduce the expectation, lower the bar! You know what the sad fact is, some will actually recommend that. The leadership needs to step aside and get some individuals on board who are creative, have some ingenuity, and who actually can set the ego, power, and personal financial concerns aside and focus on the job at hand. PROVIDING A RELEVANT EDUCATION FOR OUR URBAN YOUTH. It appears that failure in the RCSD is something of an expectation. We’ve been failing these kids for decades. With that expectation in mind…all the powers to be simply cash their paycheck regardless of the educational outcome. Accountability is not even in their vocabulary. Sad to be sure.
    Semper Fi.

    • EAST and EASY are one letter apart!
      Thanks so much for your “EASY” button suggestion. I did mention it to Dr. Nelms, when he was the head of East HS. Unfortunately, Staples no longer makes EASY buttons, but you can find a few on sale on EBay. (I have the “Global” Easy button with different languages.)
      EASY contains the words A YES. And yes, there are so many ways to make learning and teaching easier, and more fun. For example, there is the POWER of PLAY. If we can make learning more playful, we can motivate learning. The STRONG Museum of Play is in our midst to remind us of the power of play. Admission is only $5, for food stamp people. And for free, one can scan: http://www.MuseumofPlay.org for playful ideas from the exhibits,
      Come on, Easy HS! Come on, Rochester Schools, and wake up to the possibilities!
      Welcome outside ideas and people to make learning really work for all students, all the time
      http://www.SavingSchools.org (Thanks, Josh for the suggestions)

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