Year-End Update

Over the past several months, much has happened behind the scenes in the effort to create cross-district integrated magnet schools in Monroe County. And Great Schools for All is in the midst of making changes to upgrade and improve its communications look and reach a broader audience with more timely information. Look for these changes early in the new year.

Superintendents from BOCES and school districts throughout the county, along with GS4A and other community representatives, began meeting late this fall in an exploratory planning process involving three work groups. These work groups are focusing on (a) governance and staffing, (b) finance and transportation, and (c) preliminary nature/design of one or more pilot schools, along with the outline of any legislation that would be required to implement such pilot school(s).  This exploratory planning process is being facilitated by Causewave, supported by a grant which GS4A received from an anonymous local foundation affiliated with the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

The planning process is being guided in part by the findings and recommendations from an independent 2021 study commissioned by GS4A and conducted by the Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe global law firm, which specializes in conducting objective research on integration and education. Orrick Report

The three work groups expect to issue reports on their preliminary findings and
recommendations early in 2023, for presentation to the school boards of the participating districts. If districts decide to move forward at that point, discussions are expected to continue with members of the local NYS Assembly and Senate delegation about any needed legislation and how best to proceed at that time.

It is anticipated that if districts are in support of moving forward, a second phase of the
planning process would include an extensive community engagement focus designed to engage with parents, students, school staff and the larger community to seek guidance on various aspects of school design.

Decades of national research have shown unequivocally that socioeconomically and racially integrated schools can dramatically improve the odds of academic progress and graduation for low-income students, as well as improving critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and readiness for future college and work for all students. More recent research documents positive long-term outcomes well into adulthood among students enrolled in such integrated schools.

Several professional surveys of county residents, parents and students have documented widespread city and suburban support for the creation of such schools.

As the work groups have been organizing their work, GS4A has been proceeding, with the support of a separate grant from The Community Foundation, on three new initiatives designed to improve our communications with key audiences throughout the county. These initiatives will result in a new look and expanded posts for our GS4A website, the hiring of a part-time coordinator to manage our website and expanded social media presence, and the creation of a video documenting the importance and evidence-based value of integrated magnet schools.

These initiatives are expected to be in place in the first quarter of 2023.
Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions, and please share this information on social media and with friends. In the meantime, our best wishes to all for a wonderful holiday season and new year.

With gratitude,

Great Schools for All

Great Schools looking for social media assistance

Great Schools for All is looking for media savvy help as we work to build broad support for our goal of integrated interdistrict magnet schools and community understanding of the many ways they can improve the education experience of all children.

We have three part-time temporary job openings. If you are interested in any of these positions, send a resume and cover letter highlighting relevant experiences to

  • Social media coordinator to help us expand our reach through various social media platforms. We expect this person would add one to three posts per week on our various social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. GS4A team members will collaborate on or contribute the content for these posts. We expect this job could last up to a year (or beyond) and would take no more than 3 hours weekly.
  • Videographer to produce an introductory video for our website and social media platforms. GS4A hopes this 2-3 minute video will clearly state our goal, highlight relevant evidence in support of this goal and include several very brief personal testimonials. We expect this project could be completed in two to three months.
  • Update the GS4A website. GS4A seeks an experienced web designer who can upgrade our site, enhancing the overall appearance, improving accessibility, and constructing a format that allows for the seamless moving of posts among our social media accounts and website. We expect this project to take one to two months.

School District Superintendents Meet to Discuss Planning for Integrated Crossdistrict Magnet Schools

More than a dozen Monroe County school superintendents representing the east and west side BOCES, Rochester City School District, and several suburban school districts have met twice with Great Schools for All since the beginning of 2022 to explore issues related to the possible creation of one or more pilot integrated public magnet schools. Such schools would be intentionally socioeconomically and racially diverse and draw students from both city and suburban school districts.

Subsequent meetings will discuss issues including, but not limited to:

  • Governance and oversight of such magnet schools
  • Financing to ensure equitable funding for all participating districts
  • Determination of the number, types, and location of initial pilot school(s)
  • Student selection process
  • Staffing and sharing of resources
  • Transportation, and
  • Determination of any legislation that may be needed to create such schools

It is anticipated that a second phase of this planning process would include parents, students, teachers, administrators, and other school employees, as well as others in the larger community, in identifying the key components or pillars of specific proposed pilot magnet school(s). Our local NYS legislators have indicated their interest in collaborating in the process of crafting any needed legislation.

With the generous support of a small foundation at Rochester Area Community Foundation, initial discussions are underway to engage an experienced independent facilitator to help guide the planning process going forward.

Discussions and plans to date have been consistent with findings and recommendations outlined in a 2021 report by the Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe global law firm, which specializes in conducting independent, objective research on education and integration issues. The Orrick report strongly endorsed integrated crossdistrict magnet schools in Monroe County as practical and “a realistic, feasible and viable option likely to improve educational outcomes and long-term success” among its students. The report also identified types of legislation that may be needed to develop and implement such schools and outlined a two-phase planning process to address key issues and implement and test the impact of one or more pilot magnet schools.

Great Schools for All has proposed the creation of a network of voluntary integrated magnet schools offering unique educational opportunities not currently available to either city or suburban students. Such schools have been successfully implemented in other communities throughout the country. Decades of research have shown unequivocally that such integrated schools can dramatically improve the odds of academic progress and graduation, as well as improving critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and readiness for future college and work. More recent research documents positive long-term outcomes well into adulthood among students enrolled in such integrated schools.

More to follow as decisions are made in the coming weeks and months.

Please share this news on social media and with friends.

Countywide Survey Shows Support for Creation of Crossdistrict Magnet Schools

A recent Siena College Research Institute poll of Monroe County residents indicates strong support for the establishment of magnet schools with specialized curricula that would draw students from both urban and suburban schools.  As indicated in the graphs below, 75 percent of all respondents support the creation of such schools.  Support was consistently strong across racial/ethnic groups and across both city and suburban residents.

The Siena College poll was commissioned by the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Democrat and Chronicle.  It was conducted during this past December and early January, with 707 county residents, reflecting the demographic makeup of the county population.  The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percent.

The graphs, created by Kate Nelligan, were published by the Democrat and Chronicle on April 5, 2022.

Kate Nelligan's "Establishing New Schools" graphic from the Democrat and Chronicle on April 5, 2022.

Contact your superintendent

If you support voluntary diverse interdistrict magnet schools as a way to improve the learning opportunities for all students in our community, consider writing to your district superintendent, encouraging him or her to join other superintendents who will soon begin to discuss the idea.

Below is a sample letter you may cut and paste into an email, but by all means write your own personal letter if you prefer. If you contact your Superintendent, please copy us in on your letter at

Need help finding the contact information? The links below take you to your district’s web page with the superintendent’s contact information:


Feel free to share this link with any friends who may also support this effort.

Thank you.

Melody Wollgren and Mark Hare

Dear [Superintendent]:

As a resident/parent/alum etc. of [district], I ask you to participate in any meetings with other superintendents who are considering magnet schools to provide a more diverse learning environment for interested students in Monroe County.

Having recently read Justin Murphy’s D&C story on these schools and the Orrick Report commissioned by Great Schools for All (GS4A), I understand an initial meeting may occur soon.

The report was completed by the global Orrick, Herrington, and Sutcliffe law firm. Neither GS4A, a local advocacy group of parents and community members, nor the report call for a consolidation of school districts. Rather, the report lays out the steps needed to permit districts to voluntarily collaborate in developing pilot magnet schools that would be purposefully socioeconomically and racially diverse. It would also allow districts to offer unique educational opportunities not currently available in other schools.

The report is available here:

I believe, consistent with the Orrick report, that all children will benefit from truly diverse schools. Decades of research demonstrate “unequivocally” that socioeconomically and racially integrated schools significantly improve the odds of student success on academic outcomes such as graduation rates, along with improved problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and preparation for the changing 21st-century workforce, as well as improved outcomes as adults. Improved outcomes are especially impressive among low-income students, although the research demonstrates that all students in intentionally diverse schools benefit.

I would like to see [this district] participate in order to offer District students the opportunity to attend such a school. Your attendance at an initial meeting would demonstrate that our district is forward thinking, innovative and willing to explore options to provide the best educational experiences for our students and families. Participation will also ensure that our district has a seat at the table and can be instrumental in creating and shaping such schools.

I look forward to hearing about ongoing educational partnerships to best serve our community.


National report supports creation of diverse interdistrict magnet schools in Monroe County:  Several superintendents to meet to discuss report

A thoroughly-documented new report shows that diverse magnets are an effective tool in rolling back segregation and improving educational outcomes for all children, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

This summary was written by Mark Hare and Don Pryor.

Several Monroe County school superintendents will soon meet to discuss how to proceed in response to the new research report, which analyzes the possible creation of one or more pilot interdistrict collaborative magnet schools. Attendance at these schools would be voluntary, but each would be “intentionally integrated,” with a racially and socioeconomically diverse mix of city and suburban students.

This convening could be a first step toward possible interdistrict collaboration as a partial remedy for the troubling effects of high-poverty segregated city schools. Great Schools for All, a citizens advocacy group, has been calling for years for a network of these schools to improve the odds of success for the most disadvantaged students in the county—and to improve the skills needed by all students to successfully navigate the 21st century.

Great Schools for All does not call for consolidation of school districts, but rather for a mechanism that would permit districts to jointly and voluntarily develop magnet schools to better serve the needs of their students and the Greater Rochester community.

view the report

Great Schools has just released the independent report from the Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe law firm, based in Washington and NYC,[i] which objectively assessed the viability of our magnet schools proposal. Such schools would center curriculum around themes (e.g., health careers, language immersion, environmental science, social justice) to offer programs not otherwise available in Monroe County schools.

The report’s primary conclusion:  GS4A’s proposed “Breakthrough Schools that are socioeconomically and racially diverse and that offer unique educational opportunities not otherwise available to students in Monroe County school districts should be considered a realistic, feasible and viable option likely to improve educational outcomes and long-term success among all students, and particularly those in geographical areas with high concentrations of poverty. This report outlines practical proposals designed to incentivize school districts to collaborate in the creation of a structure to implement proposed pilot interdistrict magnet schools.”

Continue reading

Great Schools for All / Roc2Change Student Survey Results

Great Schools for All (GS4A) has published the analysis of a collaborative survey of students in Monroe County Schools conducted in May and June of 2021. GS4A partnered with students planning the ROC2Change virtual gathering which brought over 300 students together to discuss the current – and historic – racial and economic segregation in Monroe County. Students who participated reflected representation from almost every school district, parochial and private high school in Monroe County.

Read the “Student Survey Summary Report” here.

With student planners, GS4A was able to help design a student survey to determine potential student interest in and support for voluntary, racially and socio-economically diverse cross-district magnet schools. Student perspectives are critical in considering community education options, as they are the ones who will ultimately determine whether such schools should be part of the answer to racial and economic segregation in our community. The analysis of student responses was conducted by Research America, Inc., in August of 2021.

GS4A surveyed over 600 city and suburban parents in May of 2016 (“Great Schools for All Parent Survey Summary Report”) about the possibilities of diverse magnet schools. The survey of students touched on many of the same issues. In that survey, between 70% and 80% or more of all respondents supported the concept of such schools.

Continue reading

Seeking social-media skills

Hello Great School supporters,

Although we’ve had a low profile for a while, Great Schools for All has been quietly developing a proposal for interdistrict magnet schools that would be socioeconomically and racially diverse, jointly administered by two or more school districts and open to students from across Monroe County. We have been meeting with state legislators, city officials, and the RCSD and BOCES superintendents. We hope soon to meet with additional superintendents and other interested parties. We have also recently conducted a survey of students, and have received a comprehensive report from the Orrick law firm that addresses a number of issues that need to be resolved in the process of creating diverse magnet schools.  We will be sharing summaries of these research initiatives in the near future.

We’re hoping to begin a social media campaign this fall, focused on getting our message in front of multiple audiences and asking community members for support in a variety of ways.

If you have social media skills and would be interested in helping, we’d like to hear from you. We’ll be working with Causewave to shape a detailed communications strategy and doing some hands-on social media training. We expect the program will involve four 90-minute sessions, including both strategy development and social media training. Interested? Contact Mark Hare using our contact page.