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The Rochester City School District is set to receive a $4.5 million bonus from New York State, but will this money help students graduate?
On Tuesday Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Rochester is one of four districts receiving that state money. The governor says Rochester and the three other districts created efficiency while maintaining or improving student achievement.
Rochester will receive the $4.5 million over three years for saving more than $9 million in costs.
RCSD Superintendent Doctor Bolgen Vargas made himself available Tuesday night to talk about the grant just minutes after returning from Albany. He was there to lobby for state help with growing pension costs.
News10NBC asked both Vargas and local parents about the grant and what it will ultimately mean for Rochester students.
"It begins when they are young," said parent Christina Deleon.
Deleon can't say enough about the benefits of the pre-kindergarten program her five year-old son Nino attends. She believes the younger kids start in a structured program, the more success they will have in school and later in life.
"It will benefit them. I know from my son going and I'm excited about my daughter to start Pre-K in September. It's a great program. There's no reason that any parent should miss out on it," said Deleon.
Deleon only wishes her children could have started in the program at three instead of four years-old. But that may be a reality for some city three year-olds coming this September. Rochester plans to use it's $4.5 million dollar bonus from the state to bolster it's new pre-K program at School 33.
"Our goal is to get 90 percent of our students to read on grade level by third grade," said RCSD Superintendent Bolgen Vargas.
The state says Rochester won this competitive grant because of the creative way it closed a $41 million dollar budget gap last school year without hurting students. The Governor's Office says the district added instructional time, streamlined healthcare costs that were projected to grow, all while avoiding massive layoffs.
Some may say that is all good, but News10NBC wanted to know if these efficiencies will help the district's number one problem, student graduation rates.
"In the long run it will, but when you have a district that only 20-percent of the students are reading on the level by third grade, we do know that we have a great challenge ahead of us," said Vargas.
The bonus money will be doled out $1.5 million dollars a year for the next three years. Vargas says the key is putting that money back in the classroom, increasing instruction time and continuing to look for other efficiencies.
"When you give a particular child the support and the structure that they need and you intervene early, it will pay off in the long run," said Vargas.
Vargas says it is not surprising Rochester students are not performing at a higher level. He says Rochester has the least amount of instructional time of any school district in the county. Vargas says he will continue to focus his attention on that even in the face of a budget deficit this school year.