Schools essential to bringing families to Rochester

Recently, The Atlantic, published an article titled, “Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed” by James Fallows. He and his wife flew in a small plane all across the country for three years, visiting lots of cities. This is the list of signs he compiled on his journey:

  • Divisive national politics seem a distant concern.
  • You can pick out the local patriots
  • “Public-private partnerships” are real
  • People know the civic story.
  • They have a downtown
  • They are near a research university.
  • They have, and care about, a community college
  • They have unusual schools
  • They make themselves open
  • They have big plans
  • They have craft breweries
Ahlia Kitwana is a member of the GS4A steering committee

Ahlia Kitwana is a member of the GS4A steering committee

Of course item No. 8 grabbed my attention. The article said that these schools seemed to be anything from “ ‘normal’ public schools to statewide public boarding schools. The common theme was intensity of experimentation.”

Evan Dawson, host of WXXI’s Connections did a show on the 11 Signs in February. Although a pretty good discussion ensued, very little had to do with education or any distinct schools in the Rochester area, I was admittedly a little disappointed. However, somewhere in the conversation one of the panel guests mentioned making Rochester a city that people want to move to.

Since my husband and I have had kids we’ve lived in four different American cities, including Rochester. Each time we’ve moved we have thoroughly examined the quality of education in that city or area available to our children. We’ve looked at test scores, demographics, etc., in some cases taking a couple of days off from work to visit several schools prior to moving.

In Rochester, I imagine there are many young families who are moving here from out of town who go through similar vetting processes prior to their move. Families are moving here for medical school, residencies, post-doctoral research at the U of R, RIT and other places of higher learning.

Families are moving here for professional and business opportunities. These families could be a linchpin in further developing the city of Rochester and our community, repopulating city neighborhoods and easing  the concentration of poverty in the city. However, when these families start the process of looking for excellent schools for their children, where are they going to find those excellent schools?

In order to entice families new to Rochester to live in the city we must offer  excellent “distinct” schools, the kinds of schools GS4A is promoting. Otherwise, these families will look to other options—likely outside the city. And these excellent distinct schools are important, too, for the young adults already living here, who will, as soon as their kids start school, look for place in the suburbs.

If Rochester is to once again, in Fallows’ words, “succeed,” we have to realize that excellent schools (which we cannot achieve until we address the concentration of poverty in city schools) are essential to revitalization. Without them, we cannot bring middle class families to our city.