Hello Friends of Educational Excellence!

Rochester is a great place to live.  But the city is struggling.  We all know that helping the City of Rochester recover is important for the vitality of the entire Greater Rochester area.  I believe the most critical element of this recovery is to ensure that all children in the city get an excellent education.

Rochester Educational Excellence:  Is it possible?

We can make a dramatic improvement in the quality of Rochester city school education.  Poverty is an explanation for the current low achievement but we all know it’s not an absolute deterrent.  My father grew up in Rochester in a poor family.  His parents were immigrants and didn’t speak English when they arrived in America.  My father went to Rochester public schools, studied hard, went to the University of Rochester, and became a successful attorney.  How did he do it?  Hard work and determination.  His parents’ poverty and lack of education didn’t hold him back.

We can change the current Rochester culture of low expectations to high expectations so family poverty and low adult literacy will not hold the next generation back.  The Rochester community is on the tipping point of this change.  I can feel it - can’t you?  I founded Friends of Educational Excellence (FREE) Partnerships to help Rochester children stay on the path to success.  FREE Partnerships creates a unique bridge that brings school and community together so children in the city realize the power of education.

Rochester Educational Excellence:  What Does this Mean for Rochester?

FREE Partnerships mission starts with a vision where all Rochester students master reading, writing, and math; graduate from high school; and get good paying jobs.  This will transform the City of Rochester to be a safer, more prosperous place where families of all types will want to live, and businesses will invest and thrive.  Rochester will become a source of pride for the entire community and beyond.  This is the FREE Partnerships vision.

How is FREE Partnerships promoting Educational Excellence in Rochester?

FREE Partnerships supports community – school partnerships in Rochester schools that bring volunteers into school to help students succeed in school.

  • Tutoring:  Volunteers work with students on basic academic skills:  reading, writing, and math
  • Mentoring:  Volunteers are positive, caring adult role models to support students
  • Partnering:  A vibrant community partnership transforms a school’s learning environment

When we change the mindset of our next generation and give them the skills they need to succeed, we will revitalize education quality in the city and transform the Greater Rochester community.  That’s my dream.  That’s my vision.  I believe we can do this with the support of the Rochester community – with your support.

What’s happening now?

In September, the eight FREE Partnerships school partnerships have been very busy getting ready for this new school year: 

  • School 7   – First Universalist Church
  • School 10 – Community Christian Church
  • School 12 – Highland Park Neighborhood Association
  • School 20 – Mt Olivet Baptist Church
  • School 22 – First Unitarian Church
  • School 34 – Grace Urban Ministries & Saint Catherine of Siena Church
  • School 50 – St. Joseph’s Church
  • School 52 – Temple B’rith Kodesh

Each of the community partners has been contacting volunteers from last year and recruiting new volunteers to support more students this year.  FREE Partnerships has been actively recruiting additional volunteers.  So far FREE Partnerships has recruited 53 new volunteers:

  • SUNY Brockport fieldwork placements:  40 students in 7 FREE schools
  • SUNY Geneseo fieldwork placements:  in several FREE schools (not included in total)
  • MCC fieldwork placements:  2 students in 1 FREE school
  • SJFC student placements:  5 students in 1 FREE school
  • Community volunteer placements:  6 adults in 5 FREE schools

Most of these volunteers will begin by the end of September.  In the next FREE newsletter, I’ll report the number of volunteers in each FREE school.

If you would like to volunteer or know someone who would like to become a school volunteer, please contact me – via the FREE Partnerships website or directly via email at info@freeepartnerships.org.

New FREE Partnerships Schools

Several additional Rochester elementary schools are interested in joining the FREE Partnerships Coalition.  Stay tuned for an expansion this fall.

FREE Partnerships Principals Advisory Council

The first meeting of the Principals Advisory Council will be on October 20.  The Advisory Council will give FREE School Principals the opportunity to guide the evolution of FREE Partnerships services.

Expanding Support for Rochester Schools

The FREE Partnerships partners have been primarily focused on providing volunteers to support teachers.  The volunteers make an impact but providing these additional resources for teachers is not enough to achieve the tipping point for school educational excellence.  There are many factors that influence educational achievement.  The chart below shows 10 key education levers that should be part of a comprehensive strategy to attain educational excellence in Rochester. 

School System

FREE Partnerships will launch two initiatives this year to influence two key levers on this chart:  

The WAVE for Success initiative is focused on influencing student peer expectations.  This initiative will help volunteers mentor students to show them the importance of Working hard; having a positive Attitude; having a Vision why school is important, and helping them Enthusiastically commit to being successful in school. 

The CALL for Success initiative is focused on influencing parents’ cultural legacies.  This initiative is directed to parents and teachers.  This initiative asks parents to Call their child’s teacher each month; Ask the teacher how their child is doing in school; Listen to the teacher’s comments about how well their child is doing and what areas they need to improve; and then Lead a discussion with their child about their successes in school and what they can do to be an even better student.

These two initiatives will be rolled out in selected FREE schools during this school year.

Strive / Rochester

FREE Partnerships supports in-school tutoring with a heavy slice of mentoring and innovative partnering initiatives such as WAVE for Success and CALL for Success.  However, to achieve educational excellence in Rochester city schools all Rochester community agencies must be actively engaged to pull the 10 key education levers (on the previous chart).  There are many facets of a child’s education including pre-K programs, after school programs, summer programs, and social and health services.

Beloved Community

Many communities around the country realize they need to better coordinate the provision of all these programs to attain educational excellence.  One effort to coordinate these programs is called Strive, an educational initiative begun in Cincinnati, Ohio (www.strivetogether.org).  Rochester leaders are reviewing the Strive framework to see if it will work here.  On September 6, Anne Kress, President of MCC, hosted an Education Forum to engage the support of Rochester community leaders to launch Strive / Rochester.  Stay tuned for further developments . . .

Get the Word Out

Please send this Newsletter to everyone who would like news about educational excellence in Rochester city schools.  Sign-up for future FREE Newsletters on our website:  http://www.freepartnerships.org/ 

And thanks again for your support,
Bruce Pollock
Executive Director
FREE Partnerships