RCSD Superintendent Bolgen Vargas announces plan to improve student achievement

Posted at: 11/18/2013 7:26 PM
Updated at: 11/18/2013 11:31 PM
By: Lynette Adams

Rochester’s superintendent has amped up his charge to improve student achievement in city schools. Dr. Bolgen Vargas presented a five point plan Monday, which he says will do that.

He’s asking for help from several areas including parents, teachers, and even colleges.

Here is what he is calling for.
He wants local colleges and universities to manage some city schools. He also wants to revitalize career and technical education programs, and create a task force to address student behavior in and out of school.

He also hopes to expand summer learning to help give younger students the ability to read at grade level, by the time they're in third grade.

He’s also looking to end the district's annual budget crisis.

While the superintendent says his plan is aimed at improving student achievement, school board members who have heard other plans from other superintendents and reporters wanted to know what's different about this plan.

Dr. Vargas said, "This is execution, action plan that requires dollars, requires steps and requires decision on your part, and some of the decisions are not going to be easy."

Dr. Vargas presented his plan to the excellence in Student Achievement Committee of the board of education. He was defending his five points and promising more details next month. The plan met with some skepticism.

Commissioner Cynthia Elliott said, "How do you go about on the building level, making sure there's a sense of urgency in the organizational climate in the building and in the district, because I haven't seen that in my 8 years of being here."

The plan also garnered praise, like that from Commissioner Van White.

"The number one employer in this community is the University of Rochester, and its unconscionable that we would not have taken advantage of that wonderful opportunity and I think it's a brilliant way to stop the hemorrhaging and a qualitative way to help our students," said White.

We also had questions. We wanted to know more about this proposal to bring on colleges and universities to run some schools. One of the questions, does it work?

Vargas said, "There is strong, strong evidence that colleges and universities could help us, help our students succeed and help us improve the deliverance of services to families and our students. Have any college come on board."

A reporter asked Vargas if any universities have come on board, and he said, "I have had conversations with many of them. I think that there is some initial interest. I think some members of the community including the business community are interested in exploring this approach."

Dr. Vargas will sell his plan to the board and the community over the next several weeks.

We wanted to know how he will convince parents to come on board. Vargas says he has been specific with what he's asking of parents. He says it's three things: to encourage their children to read everyday for at least 30 minutes, get them to school and require that they behave in school.

Vargas says if students would attend school, 95 percent of the time, the districts’ rate of graduation would double.