Rochester Promotes Deputy To Head High-Profile District
Moving swiftly to name a leader to carry on the district's path-breaking school-reform program, the Rochester, N.Y., board of education announced last week that it would appoint one of the system's top administrators, Manuel J. Rivera, to succeed Peter McWalters as superintendent.
The move to promote a schools chief from within the system came despite suggestions from some, including Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association, that the board should have conducted a national search for a permanent leader for the district's innovative experiments in teacher accountability and higher pay.
At a press conference last week, beard members said they would formally hire Mr. Rivera on Nov. 7 during their regular meeting. At that time, the vote in favor of the new superintendent is expected to be 6 to 1, according to Catherine Spoto, the board's president.
Ms. Spoto added that schoolboard members believed from talking to colleagues in other cities and from their participation in national education groups that there were few promising candidates for the job.
Moreover, she said, conducting a national search probably would have left Rochester without a superintendent until spring.
That would have stalled the school district in a "maintenance mode or the drift mode," she said, at a time when critical contract talks with the teachers' union are coming up.
But Mr. Urbanski, who along with Mr. McWalters played a key role in launching the district's reform efforts, said he would have preferred that the board name Mr. Rivera as interim superintendent and then conduct a national search.
"Manny may indeed be better than what a national search would yield, but I would question why would anybody fear such a national search," he said. "If this is such a high-stakes position, which it is, then it ought to justify more of of an effort than, 'Next in line, please.'"
Mr. Urbanski added that he has "no less affinity for Manny than his strongest supporters on the board, and I already expressed that to him years ago."
Mr. Rivera, 39, currently serves as both the northeast district superintendent and as the acting principal of Benjamin Franklin High School.
Ms. Spoto said the school board had been "grooming" Mr. Rivera for a leadership position. He took a sabbatical in 1989 to study at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, where he completed a two-year program in administration and social policy.
Mr. Rivera is now writing his doctoral dissertation on Rochester's education reform and efforts to establish a system of accountability. (See Education Week, Feb. 6, 1991 .)
Mr. Rivera began teaching in Rochester in 1975, after earning a bachelor's degree from Brandeis University and a master's degree from the Harvard education school.
The future superintendent taught elementary school before moving into administration of the district's bilingual program.
Mr. Rivera has since served as executive assistant to Mr. McWalters's predecessor, Laval S. Wilson, and as deputy superintendent for operations/strategic management.
Mr. McWalters has accepted the position of commissioner of education in Rhode Island, a job he is expected to begin in January.