Mon July 9, 2012
Community offers advice for new city schools leader
The response to a book that is being complied for the new Buffalo Schools Superintendent has been a success.
As part of the Say Yes to Education program, a special project is being launched by a longtime, local education expert, Peggy Brooks-Bertram. The book is titled "Letters to the Superintendent".
WBFO & AM-970's Eileen Buckley sat down with the author and three community stakeholders at the Merrymaker Library in Buffalo.
"There's a cross section of people...they're not all white, they're not all black. The diversity of Buffalo is reflected in the letters," said Brooks-Bertram.
More than 100-letters were delivered to Brooks-Bertram from former teachers, church ministers, students and even the city's refugee population. One of the letters was written in Arabic.
"To me that rocks, because I have tried to cover the broad scope of the community," said Brooks-Bertram. "People were very, very passionate on the issue."
"When she comes into the district she needs to do a lot of listening and not much talking," said Marlies Weslowski, executive director of the Matt Urban Human Services Center and a long time friend to the city school district.
"I think her big priority, her number one priority is to increase student performance. 54% graduation rate, in my opinion, is unacceptable," said Weslowski.
But Weslowski also writes that the new superintendent will need to deeply focus on changing the culture and climate of the schools.
"Because if the schools are engaging, inviting and wonderful learning places, that in itself would take care of the attendance rate, drop out rate....the suspensions. If the school is fun and if it is engaging, the kids are going to want to be there, "said Weslowski.
Sam Radford is president of the District Parent Coordinating Council. He sees the school district measuring its success by providing job security to district employees. Radford points to contracts
"Buffalo Public Schools is an employment system," said Radford. "Superintendents our unions, and so we do it all very well. My sound advise as a parent would to have the courage to confront that and say we are suppose to be an education system."
But Radford advises the new schools superintendent not to get into any battles with the Buffalo teachers union. He noted that having a strong union is a good thing. Instead he encourages Dr. Brown to create community support through parent engagement.
Sherry Byrnes is a parent and youth activists. She is also a former Buffalo School Board member who served in the late 1990's. Byrnes drafted a seven page letter to the new school leader.
"And I don't me rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic. I mean really changing things," said Byrnes. "We a half a billion dollarr education city. We ought to be able to do something."
Byrnes scolds the district accusing of treating parents with hostility and being harsh on its teachers.
The district "treat staff and employees like commodities who are cracking out data to a point where they are fried," said Byrnes. "They want to teach, they want to inspire."
Brooks-Bertram is trying to complete the book for newly named schools superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown by the end of this month.
"And then my greatest hope is somebody will come to a board meeting, and bring their book with them and turn to page 19 and say 'I wrote this to you year ago and I would like to know where things are now," said Brooks-Bertram.