Guiding Poughkeepsie Schools to a Brighter Future

By Jennifer L. Warren

POUGHKEEPSIE – Never underestimate the power of one class. Dr. Eric Jay Rosser certainly never will.

Flashback to when the recently appointed (on July 15, 2019) City of Poughkeepsie School District Superintendent Rosser was a junior at the University of Buffalo. He enrolled in a course titled, “Black Child in America.” Not only did the stimulating class content allow Rosser to feel less isolated and determine a clear career path, but it completely altered his way of thinking as well as secured his true life’s purpose.

“I saw my own life as well as some of my family members’ experiences in so many parts of the class,” recalled Rosser. “It really opened my eyes to children of color and education as a whole, and it was then that I wanted to help children be able to be successful in any of life’s endeavors through the vehicle of education.”

From that pivotal moment, Rosser was on a fast track to make a difference in all children’s lives. As a junior in college, he got his first real life taste of teaching while completing internships at an Afro-centric private school. Soon after graduation, Rosser taught an assortment of subjects-particularly English and history- at various grade levels in the Buffalo Public School System for about seven years. Despite his love for teaching, he still yearned to be able to do even more, particularly affecting the whole child’s needs. He found the answer as the Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services, allowing him to decipher and assist children’s needs on that deeper level.

“I had a true desire to help students achieve success in school, and this position gave me the opportunity to deal with issues facing students, identify resources, work with parents and help guarantee that all students get a quality education,” said Rosser.

Rosser enjoyed so much success with the position, that at just 28 years old he was asked to take a position as an Assistant Deputy Superintendent. His resume details a host of administrative level jobs, including; Director of Student Support Services and Compliance, Interim Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction as well as Associate Superintendent. In essence, each experience has built upon the previous one, led him to the next, and in immeasurable ways prepared him for his current purpose: leading the Poughkeepsie City School District (since August 5, 2019), one he remains optimistic about despite the challenges that lie ahead.

“I have been very impressed with the Poughkeepsie School District so far,” said Rosser. “We have great children, parents, staff and community members, ones who are vested in meeting the needs of our children.”

Rosser is hoping to mesh that community concern of education with the five year plan for success he is building with the District. “Fire Side Chats,” scheduled at churches and a community center are slated for three dates in November. Here, Rosser intends to diligently listen to what community members want the District to be and suggestions on how to navigate that journey together in order to tangibly create that shared vision. Full of optimism and genuine faith, Rosser is well aware of some of the roadblocks that lie ahead in this critical quest.

“Where there are challenges, there are greater opportunities; I don’t run from them,” said Rosser. “Rather I see it as a challenge to do something for the community.”

Some of those obstacles Rosser will be dealing with include turmoil among leadership as well as financial issues and other pressing concerns. The result has been a District, in many regards, “in a state of disarray.” However, Rosser, fueled by that very first course that incited him to enter the field of education, the breadth of administrator success he has had all over the country, and his true belief in children and the education process, is confident all will see that bright light at the end of the five year District Plan tunnel.

“Education is a civil right; I have always been about putting children first so they can excel in school and beyond” reflected Rosser. “I want to see us here in Poughkeepsie become a school district that is able to meet the evolving needs-social, academic and other-of all students so they can find success with the college and or career of their choice.”

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