Thursday, December 19, 2013

What will Lovely Warren do about the city schools?

Posted by on Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Before Mayor-Elect Lovely Warren does anything in office, she apparently wants residents to give their input on several issues impacting the city. Last weekend she held a brief event built around focus groups. A couple of people who attended the event said it was an impressive guest list consisting of neighb
click to enlarge Mayor-elect Lovely Warren - FILE PHOTO.
  • File photo.
  • Mayor-elect Lovely Warren
orhood leaders, school officials, business people, heads of nonprofits, and some of the area’s pols.

If you go to Warren’s transition website, and type “Have Your Say” at the top, it takes you to a link with a digested recap of the focus groups, broken out by category. And residents can continue to add their comments and suggestions on the site.

The education category is especially interesting. There are many excellent ideas, but many are simply out of Warren’s purview and control. Some of the responses are about efforts that already exist, and others would require so much in the way of funding that they aren't feasible.

Some of the best ideas from the education focus group include supporting Superintendent Bolgen Vargas’s efforts to improve reading proficiency. We know that students who fall behind in reading are on a path of hardship and struggle.

Warren shouldn't just bring new charter schools to Rochester. There are plenty of advocates for charters. Instead, she should help infuse city schools with the best practices of highly successful charters.

And she needs to improve public safety. Many city students witness violence and illegal activities outside of school so often that it has become a norm for school behavior, too. And many parents who may favor a neighborhood school choose schools that are farther away just to take advantage of busing so their children can avoid a potentially dangerous walk to school. 

Warren’s administration can’t ease up on truancy efforts. If we truly believe that we should hold high expectations for all city students, it seems that should begin with going to school.

Warren can encourage area businesses to follow the precedent set by Wegmans and hire city youth for summer and part-time work.

But most importantly, Warren can create a strong and productive relationship with the district rather than an adversarial one. Her predecessor went a long way in establishing new lines of communication and mutual respect. It would be regrettable to see the city school district and City Hall return to their battle posts of a decade ago.

That benefited no one, least of all the students and their families.

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