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Can City Hall help fix the school district?

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What is City Hall's role in the education of Rochester's students? That was the question Warren put to community leaders who packed the City Hall atrium yesterday. Warren has held three forums in response to Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino's report on the district's long-standing problems.
Rochester mayor Lovely Warren. - PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER
  • PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER
  • Rochester mayor Lovely Warren.

Warren said she's been approached by numerous  businesses and community leaders who say they want to help Rochester's schools. And City Hall may be able to help with that, she said, developing community partnerships and linking students, teachers, and families to support and resources.

The community-schools approach, which combines the resources of city government, teachers, parents, and the larger community is showing promise at School 17, Warren said. And the city's support for after-school programs and recreation centers is critically important and should be expanded, some people at yesterday's forum said. The rec centers give city children a safe, supervised environment for play, creative outlet, and somewhere to just hang out with their friends, they said.

A big concern for many forum participants was the school district's annual operating budget, which is now almost $1 billion.  The city, some participants said,  is a better steward of is revenue, which is roughly half the district's.  The city provides the district with $119 million annually but has no say in how the money is spent – something some people at the forum said should be evaluated.

But the city charter prohibits Council and the mayor from doing anything more than approving or disapproving the school district's budget. For Council or the mayor to have more say would require a change in the charter. And that would require a public referendum.

All of the suggestions from the forums will be compiled into a document that will be shared with the public, Warren said.

"We all have a role to play," Warren said. "It's time to stop the blame game."