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Rochester school board gets two fresh faces 

The Rochester school board will see two newcomers following Tuesday’s elections.

Cynthia Elliott, who has served on the board since 2005 and is its vice president, was re-elected to her seat, according to unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections.

She will be joined by James Patterson and Camille Simmons, both of whom will be new to the board.
click to enlarge Camille Simmons - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Camille Simmons

All three candidates prevailed in the June primary, making the outcome of Tuesday’s general election all but a foregone conclusion.

Three seats were open on the board and Elliott was the only incumbent to seek reelection. Board President Van White ran for a county court judge seat and appointed board member Bill Clark did not seek a full term.

Simmons captured the most votes of the winners, garnering 33 percent. Elliott and Patterson captured 27 and 26 percent, respectively.

Patterson is a former New York State Trooper who began working as an educator following a nearly 30 year career in law enforcement. He currently instructs security guards and teachers aides at SUNY Brockport’s Rochester Educational Opportunity Center as well as serving on the city of Rochester’s Board of Ethics.
click to enlarge James Patterson - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • James Patterson
His platform focused on district governance and fiscal responsibility.

Simmons began working with the Rochester City School District in 2009 as a youth advocate, and she is currently the continuous improvement manager for ROC the Future, an organization that aims to improve academic outcomes for the city’s students.

She laid out a platform focused on racial equity and stable funding. She has said she believes students, parents, and community stakeholders should have voices in district policy and financial decisions.

The new board will be seated in January and it will immediately face several issues, including a bus driver shortage, rising violence in schools, and a financial crisis that led the district to lay off 175 employees over the past two years, 100 of which were teachers.

There’s also widespread dissatisfaction over the academic performance of city school students. While the district hit a 68 percent graduation rate in 2019-20 — its highest figure in 20 years — it still trails the statewide rate of 84.8 percent for the same year.

The district boosted its rate in part by shepherding students into a diploma track that was less academically intensive and aimed at students who will be seeking entry-level employment after high school instead of pursuing skilled trades or college degrees.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.
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