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Warren urges 'outrage' and action over school district 

click to enlarge Mayor Lovely Warren - FILE PHOTO
  • Mayor Lovely Warren
In her annual State of the City address last night, Mayor Lovely Warren ramped up her call for change in the Rochester City School District.

Speaking at School 17, an elementary “community school” with which she has been personally involved, Warren noted progress being made in the school and its Orchard Street neighborhood. Every school in  Rochester must become "a beacon of hope" like School 17, she said. And she urged the public to join her, to "turn our anger into action" and push for reform in the district.

Typical of mayoral State of the City speeches, much of Warren’s address focused on progress made during her administration. She cited the city’s efforts in neighborhood improvement, downtown development, job training, and job creation. And she talked about work on the city’s ROC the Riverway project, community policing, plans for neighborhood commercial corridors and parks, the drop in the city’s rate of violent crime, and efforts to expand housing for low-income residents.

A quarter of her address, though, focused on the problems in the school district – and on the need for public response. “We know that our current system is failing at least half of our kids,” she said. “And we are allowing it to happen. We are saying that half is good enough. How can we consciously do that?”

“I know why,” she said, “and you know why. Because we’re talking about other people’s children. The debate over city schools is almost always about ‘other people’s children.’”

“And let’s be clear,” she said; “by ‘other people,’ I mean poor parents. Impoverished parents. Those parents who cannot afford to live in more affluent areas of our community. Other people, whose children are not in the urban-suburban program, or attend more stable city or charter schools. The parents who have nowhere else to go, who have no alternative.”

“The policymakers, pundits, and community leaders, and yes, the politicians too,” she said, “are quick to ask ‘other people’ and their children to be patient while we fix our schools. We are quick to ask ‘other parents’ to be patient with schools that we won’t send our own children to.”

“Some adults are fighting tooth and nail to keep a system that we know doesn’t work,” Warren said. And she urged Rochesterians to “demand action,” to “step up, to become outraged and demand that the system be changed.”

Some critics have wondered whether Warren wants mayoral control. She hasn’t raised that topic, although she has said – as she did last night – that “everything should be on the table.”

She urged the community to join her in working with state officials “to introduce a system that allows our children to thrive, a system that provides equality for all.”

In her State of the City address, she called stronger support for community schools, citing School 17, which has developed partnerships with parents, its surrounding neighborhood, City Hall, and local agencies. The district needs more schools like School 17, she said.

Warren and others have expressed concern over the school district’s proposed budget for next year, which cuts some funding for the district’s community schools. The school board will be voting on that budget later this month.

“The solution to our failing schools is right here before us,” she said, “and if we do nothing, it can all be taken away.”

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