Residents in Rochester's 19th Ward are facing a dilemma: parents with school-age children like the neighborhood, but they are so troubled by the district's schools, many move away. It's a not-uncommon scenario in the city, and the 19th Ward Community Association wants to change that.
"We're thinking about forming an education committee," says DeWain Feller, the association's president.
The challenge is to find ways to support students, families, and teachers that actually improve the district, he says.
Families with children are mostly concerned with a "lack of stability in classrooms," Feller wrote in the association's most recent newsletter. Parents complain about disruptive behavior in some classrooms, which consumes instruction time.
Many parents sell their homes and move to the suburbs to avoid city schools. And those looking to buy a house often look outside the city.
The problem illustrates the link between the city's schools and its tax base. How can residents create and maintain healthy, safe neighborhoods where older families want to stay and younger folks want to set down roots if the schools are unsatisfactory?
One way the 19th Ward's proposed education committee could help, Feller says, is by making sure parents are aware of their choices.
"We can help to inform parents about what the district's school choice program is, since many parents don't understand it," he says. "We can explain what charter schools are out there, and even what Catholic and private schools are out there."
If parents know that they have options, they may decide to stay in the 19th Ward, Feller says.
The 19th Ward has had an education committee before. That committee was instrumental in turning around a troubled Wilson Jr. High School, which became the Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School Commencement Academy.