New York State's new education commissioner looks at local school program

Posted at: 10/26/2012 5:24 PM
Updated at: 10/26/2012 7:33 PM
By: Lynette Adams

The state’s new education commissioner was in Rochester. He spent the day looking at a local school program that could become a model for the state. While he was there, News10NBC asked him about the city's low graduation rates and plans of Superintendent Bolgen Vargas to break away from some state traditions.

John King has been in the job as the New York State's Education Commissioner for about a year. News10NBC wanted to know what he thinks about the superintendent’s plans to not phase in state recommended programs at schools identified as underperforming. Vargas says just changing the name of a program; for example, the "School of International Finance" doesn't guarantee student success.

State Education Commissioner John King got a chance to see first hand what students are doing at the Robert Brown Career and Technical Education Program at Rochester’s Edison campus. It’s a program that could become a model for the state.

What King didn’t see, one of 24 Rochester schools identified by his office as underperforming. Schools that could be in line for a new state recommended program, aiming at helping students succeed. It’s a practice commonly used across the state. But Vargas said he will no longer use this method in Rochester after this school year.

Bolgen Vargas, Superintendent, said, “All of us agree that they need more time than what we're giving them now. And all of us agree that they need more support, they need more structure. They need more sports, more art, more music. More programs like this.”

Vargas wants to try something new. It's what he calls a holistic approach.

Vargas said, “You begin to use common sense. What does a child need to learn?”

And this is a part of that approach, putting the focus on students, not programs. These truancy workers went door to door this morning talking to children missing from class and their families. So does this sit well with the states top educator?

John King, State Education Commissioner, said, “There's a lot of work of work to do. What I appreciate about Superintendent Vargas is he brings a sense of urgency to the work. He knows the future of Rochester depends on dramatically raising the performance of the schools.”

The state says Vargas has a couple other options. He could use a turnaround model which would mean changing half the staff at a school and bringing in new teachers or turning his school over to another organization like a charter organization. Vargas says he's going to do what's best for each school individually.