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School District Makes Interesting Pitch To Real Estate Agents

Posted on Dec 06 in Philly Newsby PrintText Resizer Text Resizer

Article From: www.philly.com

By: Adrienne Lu

As a Chester County real estate agent for nine years, Sal Triolo has had families ask him all kinds of questions about schools.

Parents often want to know which schools are strong academically. But some have more specific questions, such as which schools have good hockey teams or strong band programs. A few years ago, one mother told Triolo she wanted a local school where her daughter could join a diving team.

To help agents like Triolo, West Chester Area School Superintendent James Scanlon last week hosted the district’s first gathering for real estate brokers.

About 20 agents gathered in the cafeteria of Bayard Rustin High School in Westtown as Scanlon and other top district administrators pitched the district’s 16 schools. After the presentation, student volunteers offered a tour of the high school, which opened in 2006.

“With the academic achievement that we have in our schools and the relative low spending that we have, I would argue that coming to West Chester . . . you get an educational best buy,” Scanlon said, citing the district’s performance in the top 10 percent of the state on standardized tests combined with the second-lowest millage rate in Chester County. “If we can help you get information out in the hands of people, it will make our jobs easier and the experience of the kids better in our schools.”

Real estate agents are prohibited by fair-housing laws from steering families to specific school districts. But some who attended the event said they would direct families with questions they might not be allowed to answer to the district’s website, which details information about test scores, curricular offerings, and extracurricular activities, for example.

With the national real estate market still chilled, Triolo said it could only help to know that the school district – from the superintendent down – invites prospective residents to visit schools and welcomes questions.

“They’re the only ones that have done this,” Triolo said. “I like the accessibility and availability. When I get people who want to visit a school, I know where to go.”

Scanlon also used the opportunity to solicit feedback from the real estate community. One suggested an easier way for prospective residents to determine which schools a particular address would send children to, and another asked about a new club for preschool parents.

Among the West Chester school district’s newest residents is Gus Laserna, a home-mortgage consultant who moved from Westchester, N.Y., in December with his wife and two children. Laserna said he and his wife researched several school districts in the Philadelphia suburbs and spent a week of their summer vacation in the area to get a sense of the region.

In West Chester, Laserna said, he believes they have found strong academic achievement with taxes that are about a quarter of what they were paying in Westchester.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t compromise quality of education,” Laserna said.

Scanlon, who has held similar meetings in two other school districts where he has worked, said the program was an important part of the district’s efforts to reach out to the community.

“School districts 50 years ago were the central hub of any town,” Scanlon said. “I think we’ve gotten away from that, and we have to look for ways to re-create that hub. Face-to-face contact is still the best way to get the word out.”

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