Monday, February 12, 2007
Public Schools and "Turning" Neighborhoods
I mentioned last week that I got to hear Richard Baron, Chairman and CEO with McCormack Baron Salazar, speak to the annual Real Estate Council breakfast.
Baron has been re-developing housing and community in some of America’s toughest urban centers, including Boston, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. He and his firm seem to go where no one else much wants to play. Good for him!
The first line of his very informative and inspiring presentation was stunning: public schools are the key to renewing inner city neighborhoods and communities.
In short, according to Baron, if you can’t capture, reform and make effective the local public schools, forget your plans to revitalize failing urban communities.
He went on to describe the work he and his firm have been doing, not only in housing and retail development, but in working directly with public school districts at a very high level to insure needed change.
Baron is the first to admit the importance of after school programming and other human development services. But, he also insists that such programs will never be enough.
What is needed is strategic alignment of inner city developers and public school leaders and planners. Until both groups learn to trust each other and sit down and plan together, nothing very significant will change in our urban centers. He went on to talk about how some districts where he has worked built new, highly effective schools in conjunction with the housing development he was leading.
He also noted that public schools must be re-engineered to operate much more effectively and efficiently than is currently the case in urban districts like Dallas, Texas.
As he spoke, I thought of the groundbreaking work being done here by Don Williams and the Foundation for Community Empowerment via the Dallas Achieves initiative.
What’s needed now is a similar commitment to revamp our public schools, and thus, our neighborhoods, from home builders and economic development folks, including the City of Dallas.
Our problems are much too large to work in isolation from one another for even one more day.
Why don’t we all get together and talk?