The state has cited the Albany City School District as a “focus district," or one in need of major improvements.
In an effort to get off that list, district officials are making some changes, and a big one came Wednesday.
Interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello passed the reins to Dr. Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard.
She comes to Albany from a New Jersey school district with 28,000 students.
People packed the Hackett Middle School auditorium not only to welcome their new leader, but to witness history as Vanden Wyngaard officially became the first African American woman to lead the city's public schools.
After the vote, the oath, and the signature, students, teachers, and reporters got to meet Albany’s newly appointed superintendent of schools.
“My sole focus is student achievement,” Vanden Wyngaard said.
A six-month nationwide superintendent search that produced 27 candidates, the Albany School Board selected Vanden Wyngaard, who simply goes by Dr. V.
“She not only has the professional skills we need, she has leadership qualities we need, it's the whole person,” said School Board President Dan Egan.
In the crowd were Albany students and their parents who all wanted to be a part of something they call groundbreaking.
“I thought it was important because she is the first African American female superintendent,” said eighth grader Sydney De La Rosa.
“I always teach her she can be anything in this world, and this is another leader that she can follow,” added Sydney’s mom, Cheri De La Rosa.
Parents acknowledged that Vanden Wyngaard has some work to do; the district is under a state-mandated restructuring as a result of low performance and lack of progress.
However, Vanden Wyngaard said she has a plan to get that 53 percent graduation rate up to 90 percent.
“We've got to look at instruction,” she said. “Are we providing highly qualified, highly rigorous instruction? And if not, we have to come up with ways to help our teachers become better and stronger at what they are doing.”
Vanden Wyngaard said she also plans to ensure resources are properly allocated to meet the needs of students.
“I expect her to help complete my learning experience and bring it to the next level,” said ninth grader Arielle King.
Vanden Wyngaard promises to do that.
“Our children will succeed, our children will achieve higher standards,” she said.
Vanden Wyngaard will not only make decisions for Albany schools as an administrator, but also as a parent: her eight-year-old daughter is one of the district's newest students.
Dr. V will officially start work on September 24.