Yesterday, I had an opportunity to hear Roanoke City School Superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop talk about the future of the City school system. For the first time, I actually felt a glimmer of hope. If you have concern about our schools, you need to hear Dr. Bishop. And give her your support.
As most of you know, I live with my wife in the City. We love our neighborhood and don't want to leave. But we know we will have a tough choice to make when we have children. Do we leave our neighborhood and City to find better schools? It's a decision that many young people are making and will have to make in the future. Sadly, most leave. This illustrates why the schools are the most important issue facing Roanoke. Art Museums, Greenways, mountain top restaurants--they are all great. But they are worth a hill of beans if our graduation rate remains around 50%. That's right, almost half of Roanoke City's young people do not graduate from High School.
That alarming number was actually how Dr. Bishop began her presentation. She said it was unacceptable. And she's got a plan to fix it.
As most of you know, Dr. Bishop has pushed for, and the School Board has passed, a plan to close Forest Park Elementary and turn it into an academy for overage students. I won't go into all of the details about the plan, but Dr. Bishop believes this academy can dramatically increase our graduation rate and she makes a convincing argument for it--backed up with some great research.
But like most things in Roanoke, her plan is controversial. Mayor-elect Bowers campaigned to "save the school" and stop the plan. It makes for great politics (obviously, since Bowers won), but we need to think about what's best for our City as a whole. Yes, the closing will be hard on the families affected, but it's not the end of the world. And it just makes sense.
If you care about the future of our schools, voice your support to Dr. Bishop and the School Board. To often in Roanoke, the vocal minority--in this case those protesting the school closure--are able to stand in the way of progress. These folks will have powerful backers, including the new Mayor, but if our School Board and other elected officials know they have the majority of our Citizen's support, they will stand by their decisions and feel confident in bringing about these much needed changes.