Given the title “Rising Leader” eludes to the fact that we still have a lot to learn – hence why we’re all here. So, it only felt fitting that during our Education Day Session, our eyes were opened wide, and we learned A LOT.
Our team sharpened our #2 pencils, packed our bags, and headed back to school. We started the day at Tapestry Charter School. Our visit was broken up in to two parts – a panel and a tour. The panel offered us a variety of perspectives in to the workings of the charter school. We heard from administrators, teachers and a student. The overarching theme that we immediately noticed was the dedication that everyone had to student success. Eric Klapper, the school’s Executive Director, said “We pride ourselves on being a school of choice,” – and we certainly saw why. Our student-lead tour offered us the same theme. Walking around the school we noticed a vibrant atmosphere with high-energy, sufficient resources and happy children.
We then broke up in to small groups to make our way around town to visit other schools. My small group’s stops were PS 156 Frederick Law Olmsted and PS 198 The International Preparatory School. We were given great tours from school administrators who were open and honest in identifying the schools’ areas of strength as well as areas of room for growth. At the Olmsted School we were impressed to hear the successes in their extra-curricular activities and athletics (especially for me – a previous Student Government President nerd!) At IPrep we learned how students and teachers adapt and work with the 26 spoken languages that you could hear as we roamed the halls.
During our DELICIOUS student served and cooked lunch at PS 32 Emerson School of Hospitality, we heard from David Rust, the Executive Director of Say Yes Buffalo – a group that can be considered to be an economic driver for our region by helping to provide education resources which encourages more students to work in the community and contribute to the revitalization of our city.
Our next stop was over to the Buffalo Public Library where we first heard from Lamont Williams, Executive Director of Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection. This amazing program prides themselves by saying “our students graduate.” The programming of this organization matches students with advocates who keep them on the right track toward graduation by providing mentoring with individualized attention and resources for each of their 600 students voluntarily enrolled in Hillside.
Perhaps we “saved the best for last” with our panel of esteemed guest speakers. Lead by our fearless leader Althea Luehrsen, Michael Capuana – Director Career and Technical Education at BOCES, Jason Hall – Instructional Coach at Highgate Heights, and Efrain Martinez – Superintendent at Charter School for Applied Technologies took to the table.
Throughout the panel, we addressed issues of testing, engagement of students, teachers, dropout & graduation rates, as well as the political climate we face today. Although a few Buffalo Bills references and jokes were thrown in to the mix, the panel proved to be informative and eye opening by bringing various perspectives and issues to light.
So, what did us Rising Leaders learn during our Education Day Session? A LOT. We saw the good, the great, the bad and the ugly. We learned the difference between the different types of schools. We learned that we CAN make a difference our school system. We learned that it is OK to ask the tough questions. But most importantly we learned that amongst the rumors and rumblings we hear, students are the priority and the future of our city is sitting in our schools. We learned that we as leaders can MAKE BUFFALO BETTER.