ERIE, Pa. - Last spring, leaders in the Erie School District were inside the Booker T. Washington Center talking about consolidations and cuts. The district was bogged down by a $10 million budget deficit and the future was bleak to say the least

This spring, they're back with an additional $14 million in state funding in-hand and are developing strategic plan to help spend it. The district has hired the California-based consulting firm Perfomance Fact, LLC to get the job done.

"We're right now working through our goal process and starting to develop the strategies to really implement those goals," said Superintendent Brian Polito.

They also have a new administration in Erie City Hall working with them. Mayor Joe Schember and his team asked the public for their feedback Tuesday to help mold the city's comprehensive plan with that of the district.

"We're intentionally aligning our plans," said the city's new planning director Kathy Wyrosdick. "The goals that they have, we're able to incorporate those into the goals of Erie Refocused very nicely and vice versa."

The district's plan focuses primarily on student success, not necessarily on infrastructure or other areas, Polito said. The city's plan is working to develop a better economic and community environment around those students as they grow and possibly live in the city after graduation, according to Wyrosdick.

"Getting them to feel proud about where they live, getting them involved in the community, that can be a direct benefit to the city," she said.

District officials also asked Tuesday's audience the same questions posed last month to the district's consultants: what are those goals? After choosing from eighteen options, both groups had similar answers: enhanced early education and improved graduation rates. Erie's Public Schools is among the worst in the county with an average graduation rate between 70 and 80 percent.

This is one of the longer-term components of the city's comprehensive plan, which includes everything from cleaning up blighted homes, developing the city's downtown corridor to improving the quality of life for residents.Wyrosdick said the success of Erie down the road rests on the success of students today.

"We have stakeholders from all across the city working with us," Polito added, "and we're working with them to align what they're doing with our needs as well."

While much remains, it's a sign that two visions are already coming together.

What's next?

The district hopes to develop their strategic plan by the end of May, a plan that will inc lude the recommendations of their new state-appointed financial administrator Charles Zogby. They will include that into the financial recovery plan required by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, which is due to the state in June.

Miss the meeting? Here's when you can voice your opinion

The community meetings between the City of Erie and Erie's Public Schools continues next week.

  • April 17, 6p.m. at the MLK Center, 312 Chestnut St., Erie
  • April 24, 6p.m. at the JFK Center, 2021 E. 20th St., Erie