Our past two reasons for supporting Issue 61 stemmed from the culture change taking place in the Akron Public Schools. The district administration and the teachers union now collaborate to remove poorly performing teachers from the classroom. They have results to show the approach is working. The district has taken concrete steps to develop new leaders in school buildings, effective principals so crucial to improving the quality of education.
There is one more broad aspect of the culture change — the way the district has tapped more deeply into the community, working as a partner, drawing on the surrounding strengths.
This effort got started when the district launched the massive project to renovate school buildings and construct new ones. The city of Akron opened the way to using the city income tax as the funding mechanism. In return, the school buildings became available to city residents, a strong reflection of the stake all of us have in the schools.
Today, the connections to the community are wider and stronger. Consider the “cradle to career” program with the Summit Education Initiative. This is an attempt to overcome the obstacles facing many children, the schools joining with local organizations to mobilize resources with the aim of developing better students. No one argues that will be easy. Rather, the understanding is, too many students will miss opportunities if agencies, foundations and others do not act together.
On another front, the district has linked with the University of Akron to set in motion the Innovation Generation Scholarship program. High-performers in the city schools will receive scholarships to the attend the university. The program serves as an incentive for students to work hard and do well. It also promises to help in addressing the challenge of retaining talent in the community.
The university and the district have worked together in the early college program. They have developed exchanges of in-kind services, notably, via the Central-Hower High School building. The district has collaborated with the Akron Police Department, the presence of officers about more than ensuring order. The officers may identify children in trouble, even build trust. The LeBron James Family Foundation has been a partner in the successful Akron After School Program.
This is just a glimpse of the outreach the district has made. We noted last week the role of the business advisory council. Worth stressing is how difficult that step was. A district long independent, and proudly so, found itself in need of others — to bolster public confidence, for starters. Now the school system has embraced the concept. Its leaders understand that to accomplish the task of educating so many in often tough circumstances, the district must draw on the skills of others.
What voters must reward is the initiative and progress, knowing that the quality of their community is ever linked to the city schools.