Surround Care Community Corp. eyes future after resignation, funding cuts - Catholic Courier

Surround Care Community Corp. eyes future after resignation, funding cuts

ROCHESTER — In response to the sudden resignation of its executive director, Rochester Surround Care Community Corp.’s board of directors held a press conference last week to announce that the agency will continue working to improve life for city families.

Iris Banister, the executive director hired about eight months ago, resigned Feb. 26 due to what she termed increased demands from the agency’s board of directors. She tendered her resignation in an e-mail that was directed to the board but also was sent to members of the community and the media.

An Oklahoma City native, Bannister previously had served as principal of the Charter School of Science & Technology and as program administrator at the Senior High Alternative Program of Education.

Surround Care’s board of directors held its press conference Feb. 27 at the agency’s Central Avenue office, but members said they would not discuss Banister’s comments. They also said no decisions had been reached about replacing her.

Ellen Lewis, Surround Care’s director of community engagement, will oversee the office while the board continues talks with New York state regarding funding and the agency’s future, according to Nancy Sung Shelton, vice president of Surround Care’s board and spokesperson at the press conference.

“The board of directors wishes Iris Banister well in her future endeavors and thanks her for the part that she played in moving our mission forward,” Sung Shelton said.

In her Feb. 26 e-mail, Banister wrote that she chose to resign in part because of “the continued lack of understanding of the role of the board.”

“I genuinely believed that we were on track and had reset our trajectory towards success. I obviously was mistaken,” she wrote. “This behind the back talking that leads to more and more demands and insulting emails will never stop in spite of the outstanding programs and sterling reputation that your staff and I have generated.”

Bannister could not be reached for further comment.

Sung Shelton said the board was not happy that Banister chose to make public what she said should have been an internal communication.

“That’s a choice Iris made, not that we made,” Sun Shelton said. “We appreciate everything Iris did and we hope the best for her as she moves on to other opportunities.”

Surround Care was proposed more than four years ago by former Rochester City School District Superintendent Manuel Rivera. Originally called Rochester Children’s Zone, it was based on a model that has improved educational and living conditions for students in Harlem. Rivera’s Children’s Zone proposal called for round-the-clock support for students in the city’s seven neediest schools.

Sung Shelton said Surround Care’s board will now re-energize the agency’s action teams — which address health and wellness, parent and youth support, education, community safety and housing, and community development — with a kick-off session planned for late March. The session also will highlight the organization’s community partners, which include the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center, the city school district and the Northeast Development Corp., she noted.

Sung Shelton said the board will need to work on boosting these partnerships in light of proposed state funding cuts. The state’s initial commitment of $4 million has been cut by 50 percent, she added, and the agency’s contract with the state expires June 30.

“We’re still in conversations about our future sustainability,” she remarked. “If you look at the climate in this community, it’s a bad time for all nonprofits.”

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