What’s Happening In The Rochester City School District Right Now? | Guest Blog by Chris Widmaier

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I had a former student reach out to me because he was wondering what is happening in the Rochester City School District right now. Others in our community have asked the same thing and I’m sure there are many friends and family wondering what the heck is going on in our town. This is my best attempt at a summary of the facts (with a few opinions thrown in) .

What’s Happening In The Rochester City School District Right Now? by Chris Widmaier

The school board and district leadership figured out that they had significantly under-budgeted some of their expenses for the 2019-20 school year in late September. It is still unknown why they didn’t budget for expenses they should have expected, the school board has not yet taken responsibility or explained how this could have happened (as far as I know). The deficit has been reported as a minimum of 30 million dollars. The school board had to come up with a plan to close the gap. That plan included lobbying the state for more money, some reduction in capital expenditures, and reducing expenses by letting go of staff. On Friday December 6 the Rochester City School District let teachers and other school staff know their jobs would be eliminated if the school board approves the plan on December 19th.

If the school board approves the plan 152 teachers and 218 staff overall will lose their jobs on December 31. They are cutting 5% of the staff across the district. These cuts will save 10 million dollars. The announcement of the cuts on Friday has gotten people fired up. They are trying to figure out how to stop the cuts.

How Students Are Responding

Students at several schools protested by walking out Monday, December 9. I know East, Wilson, Early College, School of The Arts (SOTA), and World of Inquiry School got involved. Students at World of Inquiry walked to central office to protest. Students are using other means to speak up for their future and the effect these cuts will have on their education.

How Parents Are Responding

Parents have been asking people to sign petitions, contact state representatives and the school board to express their opposition. One popular petition asks the state to give the RCSD “foundation aid” that is owed to the district. In 2006 parents won a lawsuit against the state. The courts found that the state owes school districts 5.5 billion dollars statewide to provide students with the education they deserve. The state still owes the Rochester City School District 97 million dollars.

How Teachers Are Responding

Teachers protested the cuts outside of the school board last week and are planning another protest on December 19th. Teachers are also #wearingredfored.

How The Community Is Responding

Many people in the community are frustrated and confused about how this could happen. An important thing to consider is that this is just a symptom of a larger problem with the way school districts are funded and organized. The current system creates segregated schools with unequal opportunities and outcomes for students. White families have access to a quality education that has been denied to people of color. Our community’s attitude that somehow the children of Rochester deserve this is another symptom.

There is also a lack of trust in our community that comes out at times like this. Pick any group of people and there are members of that group that don’t trust, and are unwilling to work with people from other groups. Much of this mistrust is valid and our community leaders have not been able to build the trust our community needs to move forward.

All students deserve a quality education. This is an injustice because children are being denied their rights. Our community will move forward when we rally around this simple fact. 

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About Chris Widmaier

An enthusiastic Rochesterian, Chris Widmaier has served as an instructional coach and science educator in the Rochester City School District in Rochester, NY. for 13 years and was a founding member of the Rochester Regional Teacher Empowerment Network. He received the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016. His work as an educator focuses on deeper learning, teacher leadership and student empowerment in and out of the classroom. As a community member he focuses on building equity and opportunity.  He is currently studying at Rochester Institute of Technology in the Saunders Business School with the goal of creating opportunities for everyone to develop deeper connections with their world and those around them.

Photo credit(s): Rochester City Newspaper | Tolerance.org


  1. Students plead: Don’t take our teachers, City Newspaper 
  2. Rochester Teachers Rally Against ‘Christmas Massacre’ Layoff, City Newspaper
  3. 218 RCSD teachers, administrators, and paras get pink slips soon, City Newspaper
  4. RCSD teacher and staff layoffs: Here’s what we know now, Democrat & Chronicle
  5. Why Rochester students walked out of classes: We will be the voice for our schools, Democrat & Chronicle
  6. RCSD teacher who will be laid off has to explain to students he won’t be back, Democrat & Chronicle


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