This Week’s GCJ: Building a culture of educational excellence

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News and information for leaders who care about Gateway Cities
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Building a culture of educational excellence
As we look forward to 2015, we’ve been reflecting on some of the takeaways from the past year. A lot of this learning occurred at last month’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Summit. In addition to remarks from Speaker DeLeo and Governor Patrick, we were very fortunate to have a keynote address from John Schnur, a national leader in education reform and an advisor to the Obama administration on education policy.Jon’s entire remarks are well worth watching if you the time, but it’s his closing that sticks with us. Jon concludes by talking about the “seriousness of purpose” with which successful countries approach education. From national leaders down to individual citizens, educational excellence is a widely shared aspiration. This mindset has allowed countries like Finland, South Korea, and Switzerland to propel their students to the top of the rankings.

The question and challenge Jon left us with was, what is our aspiration for our kids, and how does it connect to our culture and values?

This question is at the heart of the Gateway Cities Vision for Education. Each Gateway City has a distinct identity, but they all have compelling reasons to make education the centerpiece of their growth and renewal strategy.

Brockton has long relied on its can-do “city of champions” culture to make its high school standout. From Chelsea and Revere to Lawrence and Worcester, educators in many of our Gateway Cities are also starting to receive national recognition for their hard work. The challenge before them now is fostering community pride in their achievements. This will reinforce their efforts to expand and maintain innovation in public education. Helping communities establish this virtuous cycle by building a culture of educational excellence should be a major focus of our work advancing the Gateway Cities agenda in 2015.

-Ben Forman

Housing & Economic Development

Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye Jr. announces that demolition of the Leonard Block/Star Theatre Building next to City Hall will begin in December before Christmas. Estimates to repair and renovate City Hall have ranged as high as $23 million following the August 2010 fire that ravaged the building.

The Malden City Council votes unanimously to authorize $12.5 million in bonding for the acquisition of land and construction of a new police station and to purchase roughly 42,000 square feet in a new mixed-use development replacing city hall and the police station.

Paul McMorrow takes a look at the promise of MassDevelopment’s new Transformative Development Initiative. Mike Ross calls Chelsea the new it zip.

The Boston Globe covers Worcester‘s ambitiouseffortto transform the city into a thriving college town

Principals in a $14 million boutique hotel project in downtown Pittsfield have secured financing. The project, which will turn two historic buildings into the Hotel on North, will be a 45-room upscale lodging establishment scheduled to open in May 2015.

The Brockton City Council designates a Housing Development Incentive Zone to provide state Gateway City tax credits for market-rate housing.

Richard Fields, a principal owner of Revere‘s two closed racetracks, looks for new uses for the property following the awarding of the Greater Boston casino license to Steve Wynn in Everett, the Boston Globe reports.

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt plans to ask city councilors to approve new water and sewer service rates that he says will “help absorb the cost of recent infrastructure projects throughout the city, as well as greater demand for services” according to the Salem News.

MassEcon honors businesses expanding in Gateway Cities.

A new report from Joe Cortright says concentrated poverty, not gentrification, is our greatest urban challenge.

Creative Placemaking

The Telegram reportson Worcester‘s ongoing effort to develop the Salisbury Cultural District in the area north and west of Lincoln Square.

New Bedford becomes one of the first cities to benefit from the Transformative Development Fund as they were awarded a $150,000 grant to outfit their new collaborative workspace. Check out our blog to learn more about the innovation behind collaborative workspaces.

The Boston Globe editorializes on the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s latest arts-learning initiative, SerHacer.

Richard Florida writes about why cities can’t afford to lose their artists.

Education

AEI issues a new report outlining strategies to provide parents with better information about school quality. Strategies for Children blogs on getting early education accountability right.

Mount Wachusett Community College President Dan Asquino writes about the power of higher education-community partnerships.

The Boston Glove editorializes for Baker administration action on higher education and closing the achievement gap.

Transportation

Before the plan goes on hold through the winter, the South Coast Rail project has taken some preliminary steps to ensure their 2015 goals. Town by town opinions of the project remain divided.

New report for state auditor Suzanne Bump finds slow reimbursements create costs for regional transit agencies.

Casinos

The Republican reports that MGM Springfield is preparing to shell out nearly $2 million to eight cities on December 5th in a deal to offset potential negative impacts of the $800 million project. The eight surrounding communities in Western Massachusetts which were designated as such by the 2011 Expanded Gaming Act will receive varying amounts of money from the $1,965,000 total payment.

Health/Public Safety

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria announces that the City will be opening the Everett Community Fitness Center which will offer fitness assessments, strength training, Zumba, Yoga, CrossFit, and many other options at an annual rate of only $25. The Center is set to open later this month and is a part of the mayor’s efforts to bring more health and wellness opportunities and education to residents, the Everett Independent reports.

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