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It Takes a Village… and Policy


Shanai Lee, MBA, EdD

The ancient African proverb says, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' Yet, in Rochester, our village grapples with providing equitable education for all. Although Black and Latinx students comprise 90% of Rochester’s public schools, only 6% of all public school students can access top-tier schools. Students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and limited English proficient students are all disproportionately under-enrolled in quality schools citywide. This disparity is stark, and despite numerous initiatives to bridge this divide, a significant gap persists.


As we navigate these challenges, the pivotal role of policy becomes clear; Rochester's efforts must transcend dialogue and extend into actionable policy that reflects the pressing needs and wishes of our families, whose voices are integral in sculpting the educational journey of their children.


In my partnership with the community through the Rochester Education Fellowship over the past two years, parents have made their priorities clear: They demand transparency, a voice in leadership, quality schooling, and a diverse teaching force. From this, a vision crystallized: every student in Rochester has access to a great school — a school in which every educator has high academic expectations, the power of parents is activated, and all students feel supported.


Creating Great Schools requires a village; it hinges on Parent Power, Supportive Policy, and nurturing Talent Pipeline, and we’re READY.


  • Parent Power: Parents' voices have frequently been sidelined. We're committed to empowering families, making them central to Rochester's educational landscape, and empowering them as pivotal decision-makers. An informed parent can define what quality education looks like.

  • Supportive Policy: Our mission extends to championing high-impact, proven policy shifts centered on autonomy, equity, quality, and accountability, critical features for high-quality schools to thrive. Through forums, advocacy programs, and partnerships, we are mobilizing families to address barriers that impede the growth of quality schools, ensuring a favorable legislative landscape for every child's success.

  • Talent Pipeline: Educational progress lies in valuing our educators, particularly those reflected in our community. With initiatives nurturing a diverse teacher pipeline, we don't just import talent; we grow it right here. Home-grown educators are essential in bringing cultural richness and academic depth to our classrooms.


To learn the why behind our work, explore the school finder that sparked READY: https://readyschoolfinder.org/

Rochester, it's time we unite for quality education. Are you READY?


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