Come election night, I can think of two individuals who will be monitoring the returns as closely as anyone, even though neither of them appear on the ballot. You can bet that Dr. Frank Douglas of the Austen BioInnovation Institute of Akron and Dr. Eric Anthony Johnson of the University Park Alliance will both be anxiously anticipating the outcome of Issue 61 for Akron Public Schools. For them, Issue 61’s passage is a key success factor in advancing key priorities in our community: talent, investment, and jobs.
Douglas is working to develop ideas, then companies and jobs bringing together Akron’s strengths in polymers and medical research from our hospital systems and the University of Akron. The vision: a bustling “biomedical corridor” focused on bioinnovation, designing and producing medical devices and breakthrough technologies. The institute may well seed many of these companies.
What will keep these companies — and their jobs — in Akron after they’re launched? A crucial factor will be their access to talent in the Akron area, keyed by Akron Public Schools’ heightened focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.
Johnson is working to develop a sense of place that makes Akron “sticky” (as Malcolm Gladwell would say) with the young, enterprising creators and innovators that increasingly drive economic growth. The vision: a vibrant neighborhood at Akron’s urban core that blends diversity and accessibility to become the community of choice for the creative class.
What will keep these knowledge workers — and the jobs they will help create — in Akron after they arrive? If they’re like 85 percent of Americans and have children at some point in their lives, their likelihood to stay will depend on the availability of good neighborhood schools.
The educators of Akron Public Schools are doing their part in advancing these priorities as they prepare our community’s children for a technology-driven future. They have made the district widely recognized as the best urban school system in Ohio.
Did you know that Akron was chosen as the hub for Ohio’s Center for STEM learning? This took root in the district’s distinction in STEM education, together with its strong partnership with the University of Akron. Did you know that Akron’s Buchtel High School has seen significant upticks in its graduation rate and caught up to the statewide average, despite a student population that faces high rates of poverty?
Issue 61 would enable the Akron Public Schools to continue building on these successes, assuring success for kids and solidifying this key building block for our community’s economic vitality.
Leadership Akron does not take official positions on issues or candidates; but as we connect leaders with our community’s key priorities, the significance of Issue 61 has become more and more apparent to me as an individual observer. Certainly, there are other crucial issues and choices for children on this year’s ballot, including other school levies and the Children Services renewal levy. What sets Issue 61 apart is the opportunity to sustain a best-in-class school district at our urban core, a difference maker in the market for talent and jobs. Akron’s leaders are depending on its success to advance their priorities of attracting the talent and investment on which our future depends.
Scheffler is the executive director of Leadership Akron.