Friday, January 15, 2016

Health crisis forces Lowengard out as RCSD interim superintendent

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2016 at 5:00 PM

After only days on the job, Daniel Lowengard, interim superintendent of the Rochester City School District, has resigned, according to a letter that Rochester school board President Van White sent to all district staff today (see below).
click to enlarge Linda Cimusz - PROVIDED PHOTO
  • Linda Cimusz

Lowengard suffered a stroke during a meeting with teachers nearly two weeks ago. He collapsed and was hospitalized. The Rochester school board has offered Chief of Staff Linda Cimusz, who was hired by Lowengard, the interim position. Cimusz has only been with the district for two weeks.

"She has served urban New York schools as a teacher, principal, and district-level administrator overseeing virtually every aspect of instruction and school operation," White's letter says. 

Cimusz began her career in Syracuse where she was once deputy superintendent. During the mid 1990's, Cimusz worked for the Texas Education Agency. As executive deputy commissioner, she led the state's efforts in teacher preparation, certification, and assessment. More recently, Cimusz was chief academic officer for Buffalo's public schools where she led that district's state receivership program for persistently failing schools. 

Lowengard joined the district on January 1 under challenging circumstances. After a tumultuous relationship with the Rochester school board, former Superintendent Bolgen Vargas stepped down effective December 31.

Lowengard, who retired as superintendent of the Syracuse school district, was expected to oversee Rochester’s schools for about six months until a permanent superintendent could be hired. 

To the Rochester School Community,

I spoke last night to Interim Superintendent Dan Lowengard, whose health is improving as he continues to be monitored at Strong Memorial Hospital. Dan told me that he suffered a stroke last Thursday, and he gave me permission to share that information. His prognosis for a full recovery is very promising, which is news I know we are all delighted to hear.

Over the past week Dan has met with or spoken to staff members multiple times in an effort to continue providing leadership for our District. However, his medical team’s advice is that recovery must be his priority in the weeks and months ahead. As much as Dan wants to return as our Interim Superintendent, he is resigning from that role to focus on family and the job of getting better.

Dan asked me to thank you for the prayers and positive wishes, and told me how impressed he is with the caliber of our staff. He asked me to say specifically that he appreciated the chance to work with “many committed, knowledgeable, and experienced individuals who are part of the Rochester community and who have the best interests of your students in mind and heart.” His words echo my belief that we have all the tools we need to continue on our path of improved service to families and achievement for students.

As we acknowledge Dan’s service, we can thank him for bringing us a colleague exceptionally well-equipped to fill his shoes. Linda Cimusz will serve as Interim Superintendent effective January 18th, 2016.

Linda joined our team as Interim Chief of Staff two weeks ago. She has served urban New York schools as a teacher, principal, and district-level administrator overseeing virtually every aspect of instruction and school operations. Linda was also a state-level administrator in Texas, managing the state education budget and overseeing education reform at the Texas Education Agency. She has served at the Deputy Superintendent level in the Syracuse and Williamsville school districts, and was Chief Academic Officer for Buffalo Public Schools in the 2014-15 school year.

During our brief time together, I have observed that Linda is a quick study who has hit the ground running in Rochester. She is a strong and collaborative leader who has met daily with our Deputy Superintendents—Adele Bovard for Administration, and Dr. Christiana Otuwa for Teaching and Learning—to ensure the smooth functioning of our District while Interim Superintendent Lowengard was out. She was the unanimous choice of my Board colleagues to take on the interim job as we continue our search for a new Superintendent, and we appreciate her willingness to serve in that role.

Today, January 15th, is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and on Monday we honor the great leader’s life with a national holiday. As I accepted Dan Lowengard’s resignation, I was reminded of a simple quote from Dr. King that is one of my favorites: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” No setback will deter the Rochester City School District from achieving success for our students, as long as we work together to make that happen.

Like Dan Lowengard, Linda Cimusz is an experienced educational leader with an outside perspective who will help to advance our District’s progress and support the transition to new long-term leadership. Please join our Board in supporting Linda as Interim Superintendent while wishing Dan a speedy and successful recovery.

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