The work that interim Superintendent Kent Pekel will be doing during the next year had a finer point put on it Tuesday during a study session with the Rochester School Board.

During the meeting, the board discussed three possible goals for him. A vote on the goals will take place at a later date.

"These three goals are deeply related to the fact that I'm here on an interim basis," Pekel said. "What I tried to do was come up with three key goals that actually would move our broad strategy forward, but that would also be attainable in a year."

For a permanent superintendent, he said, the goals may have been focused on student outcomes, such as reducing the discipline disparities that exist along racial lines.

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What happened: The Rochester School Board reviewed proposed goals for interim Superintendent Kent Pekel.

Why does this matter: The goals set the large, overall priorities, giving Pekel direction about where he should be focusing his energy.

What's next: The goals will be redrafted based on the board's discussion and be brought back before the board for approval.

The first goal and measurement of success included:

  • Goal: "Lead the development of the Rochester Public Schools (RPS) Strategic Action Plan to guide the work of RPS during the 2022-23, 2023-24, and 2024-25 school years."
  • Measure: "School board approval of Strategic Action Plan before June 1, 2022."

The second goal and measurement included:

  • Goal: "Lead implementation of the RPS Safe and Open Schools Plan to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus among students and staff while keeping all RPS schools and programs open for instruction in person throughout the school year."

  • Measurement: "No schools or programs are closed for in-person instruction due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus."

Most of the criticism of the initial draft focused on the second goal or its measure of success.

Board member Melissa Amundsen said keeping schools open isn't something a superintendent can necessarily control, since it depends on the number of COVID infections in the building. She also said it could turn into a conflict of interest for the superintendent if the health condition in a building warranted the closing of it, but it went against the measurement of success to do so.

Instead, she said the measure of success could include a report describing what measures were taken and what lessons were learned from the situation.

Board member Jess Garcia suggested incorporating a contingency plan in case students have to return to remote learning. She also suggested working with Rochester Mayor Kim Norton so that if the city were to start closing some businesses or organizations, the schools would receive the priority of remaining open.

The third goal and measurement included:

  • Goal: "Build the capacity of the new Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to coordinate implementation of the school district’s Equity Policy (#105) throughout the district."
  • Measurement: "A comprehensive written report to the board will be submitted and an accompanying presentation will be made at a school board meeting during the month of June 2022. The report and presentation will provide the board and the RPS community with a clear understanding of how the office will conduct its work to meaningfully advance the goals of the Equity Policy on an ongoing basis."

Board Chairwoman Jean Marvin briefly commented on the goals.

"Hopefully, they will be in place at the beginning of the school year," she said,"so he'll have a direction; we'll have a direction, and know the kind of focus that he's going to have and set for the district."