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LeChase Hall Rendering
Raffaella Borasi
Dean and Frederica Warner Professor
Warner School of Education
University of Rochester

March 15, 2011 Building Press Conference Remarks

Thank you President Seligman. Thank you also to Ed Hajim and the LeChase family, for your generosity and commitment to this University – you truly are an inspiration for us all. I would also like to thank all of you who have come today, for joining in the celebration of a true milestone in the history of the Warner School.

President Seligman has talked eloquently about the needs of our urban students. At Warner, we know this reality well, as we encounter it in our everyday work. And we are fully committed to change it.

What can we do as a research school of education? Obviously, we cannot solve these problems alone, yet we can play some very important roles:

• First, we can prepare future educators to better serve our students – and this means equipping them not just with technical skills, but also the willingness and ability to lead radical changes. Shaun Nelms, who will speak later, is a good representative of the kind of educator we strive to prepare at Warner.

• Second, we believe that unless we fully understand the complex problems facing education today, we will continue to apply “band-aid” solutions, taking up the available resources without achieving the results we need. This realization is what drives the research that we conduct at Warner – as exemplified by our recent study of Hispanic students in our city, who have especially low graduation rates.

• Third, schools of education can collaborate in promoting specific educational innovations that can make a difference in our community. At Warner, this is indeed an integral part of our mission. For example, we have capitalized on our research expertise and national recognition to secure several state and federal grants to support professional development in mathematics, science, history and writing, reaching over 2,000 teachers in the region.

But the extent to which we can achieve these complementary aspects of our mission depends essentially on the people, the funds and the spaces that we can count on.

We can do much more today than we could ten years ago, because our faculty and staff have doubled (from 33 to 63), and our graduates have more than tripled (from 62 in 2001 to almost 200 in 2010). These are the people we can count on to work directly with K-12 students and their families, to research problems and solutions, and to carry out effective innovations.

This growth, in turn, was possible because of increased resources. Over the past ten years, our faculty secured over 14 million dollars in grants – much of which has gone directly to support professional development and other innovations in local schools. Transformative gifts such as Bill Scandling’s naming of the school and now the LeChase’s gift for the building have been critical. And we have been sustained by the ongoing support of alumni and friends, including those in the room with us today.

This success, however, also caused a problem: we ran out of space! This provided a strong motivation to work towards a new building – a process we started five years ago, without knowing whether this dream could ever be realized.

The floor plans of the new building will be displayed after this program, so you will have the opportunity to review them. But in the meantime, I would like to share a few highlights – to give you a sense of what this new building will do for us:

• In the lower floor of this four-story building, we will have 14 new state-of-the-art classrooms. These classrooms will not only serve Warner students in the evenings, but also undergraduates during the day. And what excites me most, is that in the summer these classrooms will also be used by over 100 Rochester City School District students, as they will participate in our new Horizons summer program, designed to reverse summer learning loss for children in poverty.

• The upper three floors of the building will be the new home for the Warner School, including offices for all our faculty and staff, a student center, a few specialized classrooms and a large “multi-purpose room” to host public events and professional development for educators in the community. A dramatic three-story atrium and open staircase will connect all these spaces. And most importantly, there will be many spaces for informal gathering, to encourage collaboration and community-building.

As such, the new LeChase Hall will allow us to continue to grow, do our work better, and also act as a catalyst in the community for all those who care about education. And this new building is not just for Warner – as the rest of the University will benefit from the added classrooms; the College will be able to expand in our current space; and the larger community will gain from the events and services we will be able to host. A construction project of this magnitude is also important for our local economy; a report we commissioned from the Center for Governmental Research estimated that the construction phase of this project alone will create over 400 construction jobs.

For making this possible, on behalf of the entire Warner School I want to thank all of you who supported our efforts over the last several years. While I cannot mention all of you individually, let me express our special thanks to:

o First and foremost, the LeChase family for the gift that is making this building a reality;

o President Seligman, not only for your very concrete support to this project, but also for pushing us all at the University to “aim high;”

o The College of Arts, Science and Engineering, a key partner in this project, and its leadership team for their support and contributions;

o Rochester’s Bergmann Associates and their colleagues at SHW, the architects for the project, and LeChase Constructions, who have worked for over two years on the plans for this building;

o Steve Uebbing, for his knowledgeable and committed leadership of this project;

o And finally Bill Scandling, who did not know about this specific project, but whose naming gift empowered the Warner School to be what it is today – I so wish he could be here today to see his vision realized.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Shaun Nelms, who will speak next. Shaun is a doctoral student at Warner, although you may know him best in his role as Chief of Schools for the Northeast Zone in the Rochester City School District.