JAMESTOWN – Jamestown School Superintendent Bret Apthorpe is calling on community partners to help improve the performance – and lives – of the city’s public school students.
On Thursday afternoon Apthorpe delivered a presentation at the Robert H. Jackson Center to over 100 invited guests, many of whom represent local foundations, human service agencies, other non-profits, and businesses from throughout the Jamestown area.
Apthorpe said he felt it was time to call on local community stakeholders to help address the challenges many students in Jamestown face.
“This event is intended to bring together the entire Jamestown family who are responsible for supporting kids, and whether that’s supporting kids through education or benevolence, it’s really pulling us together in the same room because we all care about kids,” Apthorpe told WRFA following the presentation.
As part of the presentation, Apthorpe provided data that presents a stark reality for many students at Jamestown. He noted that 72 percent of them live in poverty, with some of them also exposed to other factors – such as trauma, abuse, or neglect – that impairs their ability to focus on learning. He said these factors are referred to as Adverse Child Experiences – or “ACEs.” He said for each ACE a student had, it increases the likelihood they will not graduate from high school on time. He said there are 3600 students with at least one ACE, more than 1600 with 2 or more ACEs, and an estimated 500 students that have been identified to have 3 or more ACEs.
As a result of the ACEs, the district’s graduation rate is currently at about 75 percent – meaning 1 out of every 4 students in Jamestown will drop out of high school before getting a diploma.
Because of these challenges facing the district, Apthorpe felt it was time to call on others in community to help out.
“We have such a unique opportunity in Jamestown. We have incredible agencies and charities. We have jobs. We have educational institutions like SUNY Fredonia and JCC in our backyards. And we’ve got educational professionals that are strong. So if we collaborate – it’s not about more money or more taxes – but if we pull together and collaborate and coordinate, we can turn this thing around,” Apthorpe said.
Apthorpe is focused working with local groups to rollout a three specific initiatives to addressing the challenges. That includes a better focus on aligning school programming to individual students needs, creating a year-round “Success Academy” at the former Rogers School for students in grades 5-12 to help continually address both education and positive development needs –even during the summer months, and establishing a Community Literacy Camp for students in K-4th grades to help improve literacy performance.
He said it will take several months to work on the details of the programming, and that will require meeting with and talking to community stakeholders who are willing to help out.
“The next step is taking each of these three initiatives and inviting partners to come into more detailed conversations specific to each of those three initiatives,” Apthorpe said. “In the summer of 2019 we hope to launch the Summer Literacy Camp. In the school year of 2019-20 we want to open the Success Academy at Rogers and have our secondary curriculum aligned to the local labor market and the local college needs.”
Apthorpe said some funding is already in place to help pay for transportation for students in the summer months, which was secured by the district through a 21st Century Grant.
He said he will work with other stakeholders to identify other funding opportunities that doesn’t involve the use of local taxes to further develop and rollout each of the three initiatives.