Strickland named RCSD interim superintendent

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Deputy Superintendent Demario Strickland has been appointed interim superintendent of the Rochester City School District. He takes the reins from Carmine Peluso, who announced his decision to leave in March.

Upon the conclusion of the vote Thursday night, an emotional Strickland repeatedly dabbed his eyes with a tissue as he received the news and a standing ovation from all present members of the Board of Education. Strickland also received remarks of support from the board and the president of the Student Leadership Council.

Demario Strickland

“When I think of you, I think of integrity, I think of relationships, and I think of expertise. I’ve been honored to work with you and see that demonstrated up front. Your heart is with our children and the outcomes that need to be focused on. I have no doubt you are going to give this your all,” board member Camille Simmons said.

Strickland brings over 15 years of experience at every level of the school environment. His longest tenure was with the Buffalo public school system, where he spent nine years in school assistant principal and principal roles. He first came to RCSD in 2021, serving first as chief of schools and then deputy superintendent of teaching and learning in 2023.

“My steadfast commitment is to teaching and learning. Educational excellence serves as a beacon of hope for every learner within our community,”  Strickland said in a statement. “I will uphold a collective promise to empower students, families, and staff with the tools and opportunities needed to succeed through the initiatives started under Peluso’s leadership.”

This position exists due to Peluso’s move to the Churchville-Chili School District announced rather abruptly earlier this year. Peluso served as superintendent for about a year and a half, first in an interim role himself, after former superintendent Lesli Myers-Small was forced out by the Board of Education in the summer of 2022.

Board members give Demario Strickland a standing ovation.

Each board member stressed their belief in Strickland’s abilities based on his work for the district. The rest of the leadership team will also stay on for this interim period.

“I can’t think of anyone else that we could be in better hands with, so we are so grateful to you and all the work that you have done for this district,” said board member Amy Maloy. “I am so excited in the strategic plan and the academic plan and I am feeling very confident in the person who’s going to help lead this charge.”

“I’m going to miss this man sitting right here next to me,” board president Cynthia Elliott said, referring to Peluso. “But I think with (Strickland’s) leadership and the cabinet we are going to continue that work –you all know it intimately– and I expect we’re going to take it to the next level.”

That work includes a complex reconfiguration plan for the 2024-25 school year with school openings and closures as well as transitioning East Lower and Upper schools from their Educational Partnership Organization arrangement back to the district.

Strickland’s appointment comes nearly a month later than expected. The initial interim search plan was predicted to end in late April. At the time, some board members expressed a desire to accomplish the task quickly in order to give the interim as much time as possible to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Others wanted more input from and communication with parents, students and the community. A public discussion forum was held on April 25, an hour before a regularly held board meeting.

Also at that time, Elliott mentioned a preference for an external hire, since serving as interim superintendent could complicate them taking a permanent position. However, based on comments made by board vice president Beatriz LeBraun, this might not be the last of Strickland’s involvement in the district.

“From the bottom of my heart, I want to congratulate you on the role of interim, but hopefully this also is the launch of something better and greater for your life, wherever you land,” she said.

Strickland will take the position on July 1st, a day after Peluso’s tenure ends.

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]

One thought on “Strickland named RCSD interim superintendent

  1. While it is good news that RCSD has a Superintendent- all of us that live in Monroe County need to remember that the City School District System is broken beyond repair. This one piece of the puzzle does not have an impact on educating the 30,000 children in the RCSD.
    What will have an impact is the School Board, the Teachers Union, the Administration and the Superintendent ALL FOCUSING ON ONE GOAL AND WORKING TOGETHER TO == educate and graduate the children that live in the City of Rochester.
    I suggest the new Superintendent reach out to the Monroe County Executive for guidance since the RCSD impacts all of Monroe County!

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