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Aquino quarterly report: plusses and minuses 

Jaime Aquino’s job as the Rochester School District’s Distinguished Educator includes working with the school board and district staff to address their problems. Last week, Aquino issued his first quarterly report on the district’s progress, and not surprisingly, the district got mixed grades.

Among the positives: The district met its deadline for developing an improvement plan, and the school board has temporarily suspended committee meetings and started having two business meetings a month, which Aquino had recommended.

click to enlarge Jaime Aquino, the Rochester school district's state-appointed Distinguished Educator: Some serious problems are continuing. - FILE PHOTO
  • Jaime Aquino, the Rochester school district's state-appointed Distinguished Educator: Some serious problems are continuing.
He cited administrators' work on curricula problems and said the administration has presented options for eliminating the district’s structural deficit. He noted that the board hired a search firm to help identify a new superintendent and approved a settlement agreement between the district and the Empire Justice Center on special education.

The district has begun developing a “principal preparation program involving 15 teachers-aspiring-to-be-principals,” although, he said: “It is not clear as whether all key stakeholders are vested in the program.”

He noted that the board acted quickly to hire Interim Superintendent Daniel Lowengard and Interim Chief of Staff Linda Cimusz, which, Aquino said, “helped create a sense of stability.”

But he also pointed out continuing problems. The district hasn’t made “any significant progress” addressing a culture of fear and intimidation, which starts with the school board and superintendent, he said. Some board members “continue to involve themselves in the district’s day-to-day operations, he said. And divisions on the board have continued, “with commissioners’ tensions and conflicts frequently erupting in public.”

And while the district is making progress in “tightening safety procedures,” Aquino said, there are still incidents of students going missing from school.

“If proposed changes are to become sustained and meaningful,” Aquino said, the district has to “engage key stakeholders’ support and commitment.” And it needs to “ensure that it has the capacity to implement” its improvement plan, he said.

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