As Henry Amoroso gave his last briefing to the Scranton Chamber and other officials on August 21, the financial consultant touted the welcoming nature of the City of Scranton and its incredible citizens. He gave us hope. In 2014 when Mr. Amoroso’s firm was hired to help figure out how a city on the edge of bankruptcy could find fiscal stability, there wasn’t much hope. In fact, many thought that bankruptcy was the only way out. Mr. Amoroso and company disagreed and thus began a 5-year journey out of hopelessness.
Today, the City is on the verge of exiting the distressed Act 47 status, business is booming in many areas, and processes and policies are being formulated to increase this City’s chance to thrive, not just survive! As Mr. Amoroso said, we needed ‘sticky’ solutions that will remain through changes in government and administrations. We couldn’t agree more.
Just a block from City Hall sits another organization that many believe to be on the verge of bankruptcy and hopelessness, the Scranton School District. But like Henry Amoroso, there are people who believe that the SSD can be not just saved, but can thrive again. The Scranton School Board recently voted to approve the recovery plan designed by key stakeholders in the district in conjunction with the Scranton School District recovery officer, Dr. Candace Finan. The plan is scary and difficult. And it’s the only way out… or so we thought. Dr. Finan has always been clear that this plan can be modified if additional information, funding, or circumstances warrant.
A good number of courageous citizens stepped up to the plate, and through grass roots efforts, while supporting the SSD recovery plan in theory, made the very public effort to fight the school tax increases with a demand of the state to fund the district appropriately. With heavy social media pushes and clear examples to support their cause, this enraged group spoke, and government officials finally listened. All agreed to find financial relief for the struggling district. That funding will have tremendous impact. Why? It will:
- Allow a focus on the quality of education, not just the cost of it
- May renew an interest in more well-rounded subjects such as music and art
- Possibly staff the necessary positions that enhance the educational experience
- Upgrade the sorely lacking technology and infrastructure necessary for a 21st century education
- Redesign a curriculum with students, teachers, higher ed, business, and industry in mind
- Allow for some breathing room to craft long-term, sticky solutions that last well beyond current administrations or school boards
Just as Henry Amoroso helped Scranton redesign its future, so too are Dr. Finan, interim Superintendent Missy McTiernan, and courageous others. It’s time now to understand and connect the dots about how much our public K-12 system is the foundation for a lasting and effective economic development strategy.
The big picture
Without a strong K-12 system in Scranton:
- Our workforce will continue to lack the skills and training to participate fully in economic recovery.
- Our ability to attract industry partners to Scranton and the surrounding municipalities is much more difficult.
- Scranton’s hopes and dreams for the future are less realistic.
If the City can do it, so too can the Scranton School District. We are all pulling for you SSD! We will support and help you. Let’s connect the dots together. Hope starts here.