February 26, 2020
Mayor James Mueller’s remarks to the joint meeting of the South Bend Common Council and South Bend Community School Corporation Board of Trustee as prepared:
Thank you Council President Tim Scott and School Board President John Anella for calling this historic meeting between your two elected bodies. And special thanks to Councilmembers Karen White and Troy Warner for all your hard work to make this possible. And to the full Council, School Board, School administrators, and members of public, thank you for being here this evening to take part in this critical conversation. This meeting must mark the beginning of a new way forward for our city and South Bend Schools. Years from now, this moment must be remembered as the time when we came together as a community and chose a new way forward.
The destiny of our neighborhoods is one and the same with the destiny of our schools. Thriving cities have great schools. After decades of decline, our city was named a dying city nearly nine years ago. In response, our community answered the call to action and came together to turn the corner. Today our schools face a similar moment: we hear about declining enrollment, teacher shortages, low graduation rates, disparate discipline, and failing schools.
But just as our city refused to fade quietly into the night, South Bend will rally behind our schools and help them turn the corner.
Our new way forward must include working together to establish a cradle-to-career learning ecosystem that sets up every child in South Bend for success. We must bring in the business community, higher education institutions, the trades, and community anchors to realize this vision. We must work together to expand access to high quality early education and create more pathways to career opportunities.
Our new way forward is not just about where we’re going but how we’re going to get there. It all starts with honest dialogue and full transparency. Our community is ready to tackle the challenges ahead, no matter how hard they may be. But we cannot wait for the next election cycle to begin these difficult conversations. We cannot wait for another day.
Our new way forward must generate and implement a strategic plan that our community understands and supports.
This plan must answer questions such as how can our schools right-size their operations for the number of students anticipated over the coming years? How can we increase teacher pay to attract and retain talent? How can our schools direct more dollars into the classroom? How can our schools coexist with charters that the state legislature will continue to promote? How can we turn around failing schools through empowerment zones and innovation schools? How can our schools achieve racial equity in discipline?
This meeting tonight marks the beginning of our new way forward. Let’s restart the city-schools compact discussion together with a blank slate. Let’s begin the difficult conversation now. Let’s commit to bold action to turn the corner. Let’s bring in the community from businesses to our anchors. Let’s unite around this new way forward and make sure every child in South Bend is set up for success.