UR President submits letter of intent; State Board of Education gives extension until July 1st
Once the school board showed an openness to some of the changes and parameters Dr. Uebbing and others from the University of Rochester proposed, more specific discussions were underway. As Dr. Larson describes, “The partnership took off from that point. I was a part of initial conversations and quickly decided I was “all in”, even to the point of enrolling my high school aged son at East. Knowing how ground-breaking this partnership would be, developing research that would be able to tell this story was a natural next step.”
Eventually, President Seligman (University of Rochester) submitted a letter of intent (link here) to serve as an Educational Partnership Organization (EPO), on May 6, 2014, addressed to New York State Commissioner of Education, John King. In this letter, President Seligman outlines the parameters around which the University would enter into an EPO Partnership with the city school district to turnaround East.
While University/school partnerships are not new (Goodlad, 1991), EPO legal status adds interesting complexities for researchers. Significant differences from other University-assisted autonomous school partnerships (Mehan, Worrell, Heckman, Quartz, 2007) occurred in our case: 1) intensive involvement of students, families, staff, and community in writing the EPO proposal; 2) four renegotiated union contracts to change working conditions and professional learning expectations; 3) unanimous school board support and NYSED approval of partnership and budget; 4) partnering with a high-poverty, comprehensive high school with no exclusive admissions criteria (e.g. not a charter or magnet school); 5) control over hiring (we replaced 60% of the staff); 6) unprecedented control over curriculum and instruction, budget, and school policies, including disciplinary practices; 7) distributed leadership with a unique leadership structure (Larson ethnography report, 2017).
“The most significant change,” according to Dr. Uebbing, was that we, the university, would choose the faculty, and we would have an inclusive format. We wouldn’t do it arbitrarily, but the final decision would be ours. We had extensive negotiations with Rochester Teachers Association (RTA) directly with their president, Mr. Urbanski and directly with President Seligman of UR.”