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Shopping local

Whether the population of this area "is NOT growing" or "is actually increasing very slowly," as stated in two recent letters in City, buying a product at Costco would mean not buying it at other stores.

I do not shop at Sam's Club or BJ's, mentioned in one letter as the other stores. If, however, I were to buy "those enormous blocks of toilet paper," mentioned in a third letter, I would deprive the Monroe Avenue CVS, which frequently has various brands on sale. I take Buy Local advice seriously, so why would I go traipsing from Brighton to East Henrietta Road?

BYRNA WEIR

Cause and effect in city schools

On "Still Seeking Solutions to City School Problems," Urban Journal: I began reading this column expecting to find a call for yet more money to be thrown at a problem that is no longer about money. I was pleased to find that more than one problem was touched on and that solutions were asked for those problems. Disengaged students are the result of a mindset, not necessarily caused by schools; this usually starts in the home. When parents are engaged, care, and tutor their children (or insist that they stay after for help, as we often did with our failing teenagers), their children generally succeed.

GINI DENNINGER

Let me be perfectly blunt. You cannot fix our urban schools from the top down. Not ever. Over the past 50 years, 10 superintendents have tried and failed. The task is impossible.

I am not an amateur. As an organizational psychologist, I have worked with business, industry, education, and health care. We have created excellence by focusing on one unit at a time: one plant, one hospital, one school.

It may be natural to concentrate on the worst performing unit because there is so much room for improvement, but it is unproductive. We learn from those who do things best and focus on what is different.

If we imagine school systems as a supply chain, elementary schools are the wellspring. They start from scratch. Based on reading proficiency scores, Genesee Community Charter School performs best in Rochester. But School 23 is second, closely followed by School 58 and School 52. What do they do differently? Why are they more successful?

I can guarantee you that they have strong leadership, teachers that work together as a team, and support from parents. In most cases there will be a corps of volunteers who provide additional instruction.

What does not happen is that others learn from them. In fact, they are mostly ignored. Which is what begets more charter schools that start from scratch and focus on best practices. I can see the future. Can you?

MICHAEL R. PERLSON

Perlson is the author of "How to Understand and Influence People and Organizations."

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