After nearly two years serving as the Superintendent of the RCSD, Barbara Deane-Williams will retire on January 31, 2019.

In a written statement, she informed the Board of Education and said, in part, “It has been a privilege to serve as superintendent and work side-by-side with so many dedicated educators, staff members, labor partners, parents, and community members….”

She joined the district in 2016 after serving as the superintendent at the Greece Central School District for several years and then serving in an administration position at the Boston City School District. 

Although the district has faced some long-standing challenges, she stands by her work during her tenure.

During a press conference Friday afternoon she mentioned on top of budget constraints and limited resources, the district needs additional work and changes.

“It’s hard for people to change traditions and habits but it’s going to have to become a focus because we can’t simply do things how we’ve been doing them over and over and over,” Deane-Williams said.

When asked if the investigation about the death of city school district student Trevyan Rowe had an impact on her decision to retire, she said no and adds, at the time, decisions were made throughout the district.

 “The decision for me is not an abrupt decision,” she said. “I let the board know last spring that I was not going to seek an extension. That’s not something I was public about and I didn’t think it was in the best interest of the district.”

RCSD school board president Van White echoed those sentiments when discussing East High School’s latest student achievement numbers. The school now has graduation rate above 60 percent.

"With all of the things that are wrong in this district and the challenges that we have, I hope that this district can rejoice [and] take some time to just focus on some success, progress we've made," White said. "I fear that people are so focused on our challenges and our problems that we don't enjoy, and take advantage of the successes we have. And I should say this is just one of the successes, but it's success that's worth noting and taking time to recognize today."

Members of the Board of Education had mixed reactions toward Deane-Williams’ announcement.  

“I definitely was shocked, I didn’t expect it to come,” said Natalie Sheppard, another board member. “I would think that someone who is dedicated to students and families and helping us get our things together, I would think they would want to finish out the end of their contract at the very least.”

The new superintendent “will have to be bold, they have to be courageous,” she said.

“We only get one chance,” added Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. “You only have one chance to raise a child. You only have one chance to truly educate a child the right way and it is unfortunate that our children are the ones that have to suffer because adults can’t get it together.”

Warren has suggested previously that Rochester students aren’t performing at the same level as their charter school peers due to the turnover in school leadership.

Back in March, State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced the appointment of a Distinguished Educator to the Rochester City School District to serve as a consultant and who reviews the district's systems, structures and operations.

In September, a state report found that RCSD students in the third and eighth grades in the earned the lowest math and English proficiency test scores in the state.

Full statement from Deane-Williams:

"I have notified the Rochester Board of Education and staff of the Rochester City School District of my decision to retire effective January 31, 2019.  It has been a privilege to serve as Superintendent and work side-by-side with so many dedicated educators, staff members, labor partners, parents, and community members.  Though we continue to face many long-standing challenges, we’ve made consistent progress in several key areas to improve the quality of education in our District.  We must continue to build on this progress to ensure our children have the high-quality education they deserve. 

I want to thank Board President Van White and the Board of Education Commissioners for working throughout my term to implement a strong digital transformation plan; provide additional reading teachers, school counselors, and social workers; and champion improved parent and community engagement.  I want to thank Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren who is a tireless champion for stronger schools, stronger neighborhoods, and a stronger city.  I want to thank all of the dedicated District staff who work every day to help our students achieve, learn, and grow.  I want to thank the parents of our community for supporting their children and supporting our schools.  Most of all, I want to thank the students.  Our students offer unlimited promise and potential and have been a daily inspiration to me.

During my remaining time, I will work to ensure a smooth transition and to support any forthcoming recommendations of the Distinguished Educator appointed by Commissioner Elia.  I remain committed to the District’s mission to provide a quality education that ensures our students graduate with the skills to be successful in a democratic society and the global economy."

Commissioner Elia releasted a statement as well:

"Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams accepted the great challenge to improve teaching and learning in Rochester and I thank her for her service and dedication to the students of the Rochester City School District. I wish her well as she starts her next chapter.The Department remains committed to partnering with the Rochester community to create a brighter future for Rochester’s students.

Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino will continue to work with Superintendent Deane-Williams for the remainder of her tenure as well as the school board and district as it transitions to new leadership to ensure that the important work being done there continues to address fiscal, operational, and instructional challenges.”