Apthorpe’s Approach Independent From State Funding Is Promising

Bret Apthorpe was quick to admit last week that the Jamestown Public Schools District’s graduation rate needs to improve.

Like most districts throughout the state, Jamestown’s graduation rate for students from economically stable backgrounds was good. The 2017 graduating class had 265 members; with 85 percent of the 119 members from economically stable backgrounds graduating. They are the students who are most likely to take advantage of Jamestown High School’s strong course offerings and college preparation programs. The graduation rate for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds fell to 68 percent — a decrease of 6 percent from 2016. These are the students who not only most need a high school diploma, but who need that diploma to signify that they are ready for either college or for a job.

It is telling, though, that Apthorpe didn’t immediately have his hand out asking for more state aid so that the district can have more people working with students who are struggling. Instead, in March, Apthorpe plans to unveil his thoughts on ideas to improve several aspects of learning in the school district. Apthorpe’s approach is refreshing. While we’re sure he will lobby state officials for as much money in this year’s state budget as possible, we will be interested in hearing Apthorpe’s plan to create more learning opportunities within the district at a time when there aren’t a lot of available dollars for new programs.

Too often, we hear school officials talk about the things they can’t do because there isn’t enough money to go around. It is interesting and a bit refreshing to hear a superintendent talk about a district’s problems in one breath and, with the next, discuss local solutions. We have long thought the Jamestown and Dunkirk school districts deserved more of a helping hand from the state. Kudos to Apthorpe for coming up with ways to possibly help the district help itself.