Updated: May 18, 2020 11:10 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Advocates and parents joined the Rochester School Board in an enthusiastic embrace of the board’s selection of former Brockport Central School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small, Ed.D. as the new superintendent of the Rochester City School District.
The board unanimously approved her selection Monday afternoon.
“There was one name, that came up, and only one name that came up in the context of finding a new superintendent,” School Board President Van White said. “And it wasn’t even a name for an interim. It was a name for a permanent superintendent and it was the name of Dr. Lesli.”
After the board voted during a Zoom conference, White signed the papers making the hiring official and the new superintendent revealed she would start the job immediately, on Tuesday.
“I am excited,” said Walida Montrose-Sims, a parent advocate as well as the mother, and grandmother, of students in the Rochester school system. “She is a champion in our community. She’s a champion for our students, for our parents.”
In selecting her, board members emphasized her credentials and local connections.
Myers-Small grew up in Pittsford and went to school at the University of Rochester and Saint John Fisher College.
“There were a number of people who talked about us hiring locally,” School Board Vice President Cynthia Elliott said. “And that is what we’ve done. I don’t think you can get a better candidate.”
“She’s really homegrown,” Jackie Campbell, Director of the ROC The Future Alliance, said. “And that is a difference in terms of what we have had in terms of leadership.”
Campbell pointed to Myers-Small’s work with local groups to find solutions when she was school superintendent in Brockport up until last fall.
But Walida Montrose-Sims was more impressed that she herself got through earlier this year when Myers-Small was not local but was serving as Assistant Commissioner of School Reform and Innovation with the New York State Education Department in Albany.
Despite being hundreds of miles away and overseeing school systems across the state, she still answered an email from one Rochester parent and grandparent.
“She responds!” Montrose-Sims said. “I didn’t get responses from board members here in the Rochester City School District but I got a response from Dr. Small and that meant a lot. And it wasn’t just a vague response. It was a very detailed response.”
For her part, Myers-Small joined school board leaders and thanked them for their vote of confidence, while promising to keep up that connection with Albany, albeit in the opposite direction.
“The children deserve a leader who is passionate,” Myers-Small said, “who is student-focused, who has the connections with State Ed, which is what we are going to need some help with.”
Small was selected quickly after her predecessor Terry Dade abruptly left to become Superintendent of Cornwall Central School District in the Hudson Valley, but board members pointed out that she had already been closely looked at, and had been a finalist when Dade was hired.
The new superintendent said she wanted to hit the ground running to deal with the district’s budget crunch as well as still unknown long term impact of coronavirus.
“She has her work cut out for her,” Montrose-Sims said. “But I think she is the woman for the job.