Published Essays from the Jefferson Educational Society

The Jefferson Educational Society has a variety of published essays that educate the community about public policies and issues in the Erie area. Learn more by downloading or viewing the essays below.

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erie's make or break-quality, affordable housing in every neighborhood

In an ongoing series on sustainability issues by Court Gould, Erie’s Make or Break — Quality, Affordable Housing in Every Neighborhood, makes the case for the promise of housing opportunity in welcoming neighborhoods, the high stakes for Erie, systems that are ripe to be improved, and makes numerous recommendations to mitigate Erie's housing disorder that continues to put Erie on its economic heels while impeding the ultimate glue that holds Erie's promise - person to person respect and care.

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in the wake of buffalo-america's future: 'It's in OUr Hands'

This essay is a response by JES Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Parris J. Baker to the tragic, racially-motivated mass murder in Buffalo, NY that occurred recently.  


james justice: erie's forgotten singer, actor, composer

Following is the second of a 12-part series on African American history in the Erie region by Dr. Chris Magoc, Johnny Johnson, and Melinda Myer. The series will continue in Jefferson Educational Society publications over the next year.


True Americans: an abridged introduction to the epic story of African Americans in Erie county

Following is the first of a 12-part series on African American history in the Erie region by Dr. Chris Magoc, Johnny Johnson, and Melinda Myer. The series will continue in Jefferson Educational Society publications over the next year.



Following is the fourth in a series of articles by writer Tanya Teglo on African American culture and social issues. The articles were first published as part of the 2021 Erie Blues & Jazz Festival.



Following is the third in a series of articles by writer Tanya Teglo on African American culture and social issues. They will continue throughout February as Americans celebrate Black History Month. The articles were first published as part of the 2021 Erie Blues & Jazz Festival.



Following is the second in a series of articles by writer Tanya Teglo on African American culture and social issues. They will continue throughout February as Americans celebrate Black History Month. The articles were first published as part of the 2021 Erie Blues & Jazz Festival.


Wakin' Us Up: Blues & Jazz Musical Evolution and Social Revolution

This essay is the first in a series of articles by writer Tanya Teglo on African American culture and social issues. They will continue throughout February as Americans celebrate Black History Month. The articles were first published as part of the 2021 Erie Blues & Jazz Festival.

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Movers of edinboro

This essay, authored by Ruth Cogan and Melinda Meyer, of the Edinboro Area Historical Society remember LeRoy and Beatrice Smith Family for breaking racial and cultural barriers while leading by example


Opinion: Make Education Cheaper with High School Diploma Plus

This essay, authored by Maureen W. McClure, Ph.D., and Harold Aughton, Ed.D., of the University of Pittsburgh presents an idea for school districts and community colleges to create a dual-degree program. It is intended to be the beginning of a conversation surrounding higher education following the unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Faith, fears, and facts: African Americans, vaccinations, and the fierce urgency of now for bipoc communities

In in the wake of the nationwide rollout of three Covid-19 vaccines, lead author Dr. Parris Baker explores in this latest JES Report “Faith, Fears, and Facts: African Americans, Vaccinations, and the Fierce Urgency of Now for BIPOC Communities” the politics and perceptions around vaccination and offers key recommendations as well as corrects some of the misinformation that surrounds the effectiveness of the vaccines.

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Erie & Crisis: Region Faces Unique Opportunity to Reimagine Itself

This essay, written by members of the Jefferson’s team, including Scholars-in-Residence Drs. Judith Lynch and Andrew Roth, is an attempt to look at COVID-19 through the lens of past experiences and make recommendations for the future. It starts with an explanation of the COVID-19 at national, state, and local levels. It follows with an in-depth look at how America has dealt with pandemics of the past and explores how Erie confronted crises in the past. The essay concludes by making the case that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” as Stanford University economist Paul Romer has put it. Erie’s leadership needs to come together in an entrepreneurial spirit rather than
retreat, holding out hope that the state and federal governments will come to save us and any other metro area failing to take its destiny into its own hands.


Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Man for All Time

American icon Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired the nation in life and in death. As the nation approaches the 52nd anniversary of King’s assassination on April 4, 2020, local King academic experts William Hunter and Parris Baker write about King’s life, legacy, and enduring impact in the Jefferson Essay to follow. Hunter and Baker, along with Marcus Atkinson and Scott Michael, discussed King and the recent visit to Erie by King’s oldest son, Martin Luther King III, in a program in February 2020 at the Jefferson Educational Society. Erie Mayor Joe Schember presented King III with a key to the city and honored the entire King family for their enduring commitment to fighting social injustice. The honors were fitting for many reasons, of course. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, inspiration, and legacy continue to be felt in cities and towns across America and the world. As Jefferson trustee Dr. Baher Ghosheh pointed out, King’s revolutionary life and impact were global as he was influenced by India’s Mahatma Gandhi and King, in turn, influenced South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.


Raimy Ideas: A Collection of Essays Representing the works of Five raimy Fellows

This collection of essays represents the culmination of more than eight months of work by five dedicated participants of the Raimy Fellowship Program. Responding to suggestions from alumni of the first several Jefferson Civic Leadership Academy (JCLA) cohorts, the Jefferson team created an advanced developmental experience in applied leadership theory. From an original group of 14, the five Raimy Fellows – April Soriano, Jim Wertz , Michael Outlaw, Seth Trott and YahMoorah Shakoor-Hooker – met the challenging program’s requirements. For, in addition to all of the work required in the core JCLA program, Raimy Fellows also pursued a two-pronged exploration of 1) leadership theory and 2) directed research into an aspect of poverty in the City of Erie and Erie County.


Raimy Idea: Recognizing the Rural Digital Divide

The pandemic revealed in a dramatic way the lack of adequate broadband internet service in rural areas like the Wattsburg Area School District. Technology Specialist, Jeff Styborski recently partnered with the Jefferson Society in Erie and the Wattsburg Area School District to conduct a broadband internet study of our student’s families. Mr. Styborski is also a resident of the district. Jeff Styborski is an alum of the Jefferson Civic Leadership Academy and a Raimy Fellow. Please click HERE to watch a livestreamed Jefferson program with Mr. Styborsky discussing "Overcoming the Rural Digital Divide" recorded in May 2021.

Facing Racial Disparities: Is Erie the Worst City in America for

This essay, written by Dr. Margaret Smith and Dr. Susan McDevitt of Edinboro University, provides some insight into several topics that examine the 24/7 Wall St. report that declared Erie to be “the worst city in American for African-Americans” in 2017. The essay examines the dynamics of institutional racism and its role in the plight of African-Americans. Topics discussed in the essay include the 24/7 Wall St. methods and factors included in the Worst Cities for Black Americans report on Erie. Likewise, an analysis of important factors by ZIP code is presented. Finally, recommendations to remedy some of the persistent problems suffered by Erie and other such cities are offered.


The Lurking Threat: Harmful Algae Blooms Pose Local, Global Hazard

This essay is the result of research, writing, and analysis by its author, Judith Lynch, Ph.D., the Jefferson’s Decadian Scholar, as well as the guidance and support of several others, including the Jefferson Essays Editorial Board. This latest essay, the Jefferson’s seventh, explores a critical issue facing the Erie region: How to properly define the threat posed by Harmful Algae Blooms and other threats to Lake Erie’s water quality. It looks at causes and possible solutions while trying to accurately depict the real threats to our environment and economy.


Time to Act: The Case for Heritage Tourism and Rebuilding Erie’s Three Historic Forts

In the newly published Jefferson Essay, author Michael Fuhrman argues that public history and a community’s story is a powerful tool for urban revitalization at the grassroots and that capitalizing on this core asset must be a primary part of the recovery strategy. 

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Erie's Mayoral Race: Analyzing Voter Turnout and Primary Election Victories with a Look Ahead to November 7's General Election

By: Patrick Cuneo

As Erie Democratic mayoral nominee Joe Schember and Republican nominee John Persinger gear up their campaigns for a Nov. 7 election showdown, an important question lingers. What happened in the primary voting on May 16 that brought us here? Further, how many people voted in the primaries in the effort to succeed three-term Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott? Who were they? How did the turnout compare to past primaries? How does that help inform what might happen in November or, at minimum, underscore the candidates’ advantages and disadvantages heading toward the general election?

It should first be pointed out that the focus of this essay is limited principally to the voting results, voter turnout, and how they compare to the voting patterns over the last 30 years in particular. The turnout and voter breakdown of the May 2017 primaries tell a story about winners and contenders for the Democratic and Republican nominations. They also reveal some detail about the voters, including who showed up at the polls, by age and other demographics, and who didn’t. They also show that the once reliable Erie ethnic voting patterns seem to be eroding. What they don’t reveal, however, are the many reasons why Schember and Persinger emerged from a group of nine to compete head-to-head to succeed Mayor Sinnott, such as the ideas, people and money that helped them achieve the nominations.

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Erie's Public Schools: History, Challenges, Future

By: R. James Wertz, Ph.D.

"Erie’s public schools are in crisis. Inequitable funding by the Commonwealth and high rates of poverty and English language learners, as well as an abundance of students with learning disabilities, are just a few of the problems facing the district," writes Dr. R. James Wertz in the introduction for "Erie's Public Schools: History, Challenges, Future."

The essay reviews the history of Erie's Public Schools, analyzes its present circumstances, and looks forward to the future of how the School District is working to address its challenges through measures such as the community schools initiative.

"A community school strategy leverages community partnerships and adopts a community-centered curriculum that connects students to their schools as well as their neighborhoods. It’s a strategy that’s as much about creating social returns on investment as it is about accomplishing the mission of public education," Wertz writes. "By offering social services and adaptive curriculum, public schools nationwide hope to repatriate students lost to the charter school movement so that their identity, their affinity, and their future success reside in the neighborhoods where they lived, played, and learned as children. The community school strategy is, in many ways, a return to the community-centered education that shaped the district in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Further, it is my hope to illustrate a legacy of the Erie School District that includes creating programs, developing curriculum, and allocating resources that benefit the community, even when it burdens the district’s financial resources."

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The Case for Connecting Presque Isle to Erie's East Side -- A Historic Opportunity

Based on the findings from the inaugural Erie County Civic Leadership Academy Class and detailed research of Erie's past coupled with an examination of nationwide models, “The Case for Connecting Presque Isle to Erie’s East Side – A Historic Opportunity” explores past attempts to connect Presque Isle to Erie's east side and details the prospect of an underwater tunnel creating a second access point to the state park.

The essay's author, Michael Fuhrman, details Erie's historic attempts to make such a connection – dating back to 1913 – and explores new findings to discuss safety concerns of having only one entrance to the peninsula, as well as potential economic development that could be produced by connecting Erie's asset to its downtown.

The essay also features: An evaluation of bridges versus tunnels for such a connection;projected routes and construction details; successful models nationwide; environmental impacts of such a connection; public safety concerns; the creation of a waterfront district; Erie’s east side versus west side division; and, Erie’s establishment as “Pennsylvania’s Riviera.”
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Erie's Advanced Industries

The Jefferson Educational Society's second Jefferson Essay is dedicated to the examination of Erie’s Advanced Industries, which are arguably the key to Erie, Pa.’s future economic growth. The result of the burgeoning collaboration between the Brookings Institution and The Jefferson Educational Society, this thirty-six-page essay utilizes primary data curated and published by Brookings in February 2015.

In short, advanced industries invest deeply in research and development while nurturing and procuring skilled labor forces. Of the fifty advanced industries represented nationally, twenty-seven are present in Erie. Further, while advanced industries may only account for 9 percent of the American workforce, they represent a significant percentage (17) of the nation’s GDP. Erie is no exception, as its advanced industries can largely be credited for its rise from the economic mire of the Great Recession.

Is Erie A Safe City? Perception, Reality, Recommendations

A recurring theme: "gun violence erupts on the streets of Erie" is a cry repeatedly heard in the city. The purpose of this essay is to establish relevant facts, analyze the recent patterns of violent crime, suggest possible causes, and outline potential solutions.

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