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Gift from the William and Sheila Konar Foundation supports Urban Education Success

Gift from the William and Sheila Konar Foundation Supports Urban Education Success

(Pictured, from left: Dean Raffaella Borasi; Howard Konar; Shaun Nelms '04W (MS), '13W (EdD); and President Richard Feldman)

The William and Sheila Konar Foundation has made a $2.5 million gift to provide lead support for urban education research and practice at the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) within the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education.

The Konar Foundation’s gift creates a new endowed position to lead CUES, ensuring permanent support for the position and the ability to attract and retain top leaders for the center and its work. Shaun Nelms ’04W (MS), ’13W (EdD) has been named the first William and Sheila Konar Director for the Center for Urban Education Success. Nelms will continue his role as the superintendent of East Upper and Lower Schools and as an associate professor at Warner.

“The Warner School’s commitment to urban education is long-standing, but our capacity to make a significant impact radically increased after we became East High’s Educational Partnership Organization in 2014,” says Raffaella Borasi, dean of the Warner School and Frederica Warner Professor, referring to the school’s effort to turn around a city school on the brink of closure. “Shaun has demonstrated remarkable leadership at East and I am very pleased to see him fulfill this role with CUES.”

Designed to support the success of K-12 urban schools in Rochester and beyond, CUES shares findings among researchers and practitioners in urban education and creates models that can be adapted in other school districts across the country. The Konar Foundation’s generosity ensures that CUES can be a bridge that links research to practice and makes certain that the center will always be led by the most talented professionals.

“Being named the William and Sheila Konar Director is a tremendous honor,” says Nelms. “I am excited by the progress we have made at East High and in our community, and the implication it can have not just here but also nationally. When you work every day with students, you can see the impact it is having and how dramatically it is changing lives. It is gratifying to help lead this process and to play a key role in what could ultimately become a national model.”

“Improving our schools requires broad support. The Warner School can’t do it alone, nor can any individual teacher, school, or institution,” says Howard Konar of the Konar Foundation. “Our hope is that a program like CUES can analyze positive teaching and learning experiences at East High so they can be shared with other schools, ultimately creating positive change for many more students, families, and communities.”

Making a difference in the Rochester community is central to the mission of the Konar Foundation. Established in 1982 by William and Sheila Konar and now led by their son, Howard, the foundation has always been committed to supporting issues closest to the family, including education, health and human services, and Jewish life and programs in the Rochester area. The late William Konar was a Holocaust survivor who made his way to Rochester in the 1940s and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School.

This latest gift follows earlier commitments made by Sheila Konar and the Konar Foundation to urban education and the Warner School, including a gift in 2011 to launch a literacy intervention program called Project READ, which established a partnership between Warner and select elementary schools in the Rochester City School District.