POUGHKEEPSIE – The Poughkeepsie City School District’s incoming superintendent, Dr. Eric Rosser, was introduced to the community at Wednesday evening’s school board session. He vowed to get to work immediately addressing the variety of issues facing the district.
Rosser told the school board and public that he intends to tackle violence, poor attendance, and numerous other issues, calling his arrival “a new day” for the students and the district.
“There is going to be a lot of work around communicating with our community that while there have been significant challenges in the past, that today is a new day in which we are looking to create greater opportunities for our children and to strengthen those things that have been going well in the school district so that many more children can gain access to success.”
Rosser, an experienced educator and administrator admitted that “there is a lot of work that needs to take place” and he will need assistance in making the needed positive changes.
Elected officials, district teachers, staff, and community members gathered in the auditorium of the high school, where the air conditioning had failed, to hear from Dr. Rosser who was appointed to the position that carries an annual salary of $205,000, at the board’s July 15th meeting. Although not officially taking charge of the district until August 5th, Rosser has been spending time in Poughkeepsie meeting with teachers, staff, and stakeholders prior to his official start date to become acclimated to the district.
Rosser, recently the associate superintendent for the Buffalo city school system, was introduced by Board President Dr. Felicia Watson, welcomed by Mayor Rob Rolison, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, and State Senator Sue Serino prior to taking the oath of office administered by former City of Poughkeepsie Judge Thomas J. O’Neill.
Watson said the board believes that “Dr. Rosser will foster a new era of healing and inclusion that has been desperately needed in the Poughkeepsie City School District.” Looking to turn the district around, Watson said that Rosser’s “systematic approach to public education, coupled with his diverse breadth of experience will serve him well and drive a district-wide educational reform that our students and teachers need and deserve.”
In bringing Rolison to the podium, Watson said the mayor “spends more time in the schools than many parents by participating in various reading programs and other activities,” a statement verified by many of the teachers and school principals in attendance. Rolison downplayed his participation in the reading programs by saying “everybody has to read, right?”
In welcoming Dr. Rosser, the mayor said “I can’t tell you how important this welcome is.” Rosser, joined at the dais by his wife Tara, an18-year teacher of special education, were told “we have been waiting for you” by the exuberant Rolison. Calling the incoming district leader a first-class superintendent, Rolison pledged the support of the entire city workforce to assist in any way possible. “As the school district goes, the city goes, and as the city goes, the school district goes,” said Rolison.
Molinaro offered advice to the newly appointed leader saying “You will need to confront the perceptions, celebrate the successes, and work to bring together a community that is in desperate desire to work together to ensure the very best for the students.”
Judge O’Neill told of the district’s need for true leadership. “He comes to the city at a time when we don’t just need a superintendent but we need a hero,” O’Neill said. “We need someone who will stand on the tracks and do the right thing each and every day.” Speaking to the long-term troubles in the district, the judge said “We need a man who can start making decisions on how to raise the district out of the unfortunate abyss that it has fallen into over the past many years.”
Dr. Watson also referenced reviving the district saying “Like a Phoenix from the ashes, the district will rise.” Board Trustee Doreen Clifford called the hiring of Rosser “the first major step in righting the district” while newly minted president of the Poughkeepsie Public School Teachers’ Association, Heather Martino said that the teachers are looking forward to “fostering a positive, collaborative relationship immediately.” Martino also told Rosser that the teachers are “thirsty for your positive leadership.”
Rosser said he is confident that his experiences in Buffalo, Atlanta, and Washington DC will help him meet the needs of the children in the Poughkeepsie schools.