Urban educational pioneer, Fredonia graduate to deliver Commencement address

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Dr. Shaun Nelms

Dr. Shaun C. Nelms

Dr. Shaun C. Nelms, superintendent of East High School, once a persistently failing school that has been reborn through an innovative partnership between the Rochester City School District and the University of Rochester, will deliver the 2019 Commencement address at Fredonia on Saturday, May 18.

Recipients of bachelor’s and master’s degrees and advanced certificates will be recognized at two ceremonies, held at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., in Steele Hall.

The university’s 152nd commencement marks the return to campus of Dr. Nelms, a graduate of City Honors School in Buffalo, who received a B.A. in Adolescence Education: Social Studies in 1999. Also a student-athlete at Fredonia, Nelms was a member of the men’s basketball team that won the ECAC championship in 1995. Nelms was awarded an M.S. in Education, with a concentration in Educational Administration, in 2004 and an Ed.D. in K-12 School Leadership in 2013, both at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester.

Nelms began his career as a high school social studies teacher and went on to serve in school administration, as an assistant middle school principal, chief of schools and deputy superintendent in Rochester area school districts. In 2015, he was appointed superintendent of the East Educational Partnership Organization (EPO), a collaborative university-school educational model that has led to significantly improved student performance at East High School under his leadership.

He was drawn to the East EPO by childhood memories, remembering vast numbers of students growing up on Buffalo’s eastside who were placed in failing schools based on where they lived. The East EPO gave Nelms a unique opportunity to break that cycle.

The dramatic turnaround of the urban school, which was on the brink of closure, has drawn the attention of educational leaders, both in Western New York and elsewhere, who are investigating ways to overhaul their similarly troubled schools.

In addition to his leadership position at East High School, Nelms is an associate professor (clinical) at the University of Rochester and director of its Center for Urban Education Success, where he was recently named its first William and Sheila Konar Director. He previously served as an adjunct professor at St. John Fisher College, and adjunct professor and visiting professor at the Warner School. Nelms is also a member of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative.

Honors received by Nelms include: 2016 Best Rising Star in Education, City Newspaper; People to Watch, American Association of School Administrators; Alumni of the Year Award, Fredonia; and Walter I. Garms Award for Educational Leadership, University of Rochester.

Nelms serves as a board member of the Fredonia College Foundation, which raises funds to support scholarships as well as activities and programs that enhance educational experiences of students. He is also the proud parent of a daughter, Nia, who will receive a B.S. in Social Work at this year’s Commencement.

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