CE Education Day


Day Session Blog: Leo Michalek, Northwest Bank

What factors play a role in a child’s success early on in education?

“From a small seed, a mighty trunk will grow” Dr. Kriner Cash stated “We need to provide pathways to opportunity” How can we do that? One of the ways Melodie Baker touched upon was Community Engagement (After school programs, Saturday School Hubs, Partnerships with Banks, Colleges, and Wellcare).

Our four panelists spoke about creating an environment where students can learn. They must “discover” in a healthy and safe climate. Our own Althea stated that “there is so much more to this than students coming to school and teachers just teaching” These Educators are counselors, tutors, coaches, leaders and friends to these children. They not only help them with success in school, but also assist in making them good citizens.

What are the challenges and achievements that schools and districts face while working to educate children (comparisons between public, charter, and private schools)?

Anibal Soler spoke in length about “Student Trauma”. The Buffalo Schools, on a daily basis, are challenged by violence, poverty, immigration, society pressures and social media. All these lead to rises in student anxiety and stress. Schools are now ‘responsible’ to monitor bullying. It is a trial to steer the children in the proper direction. Many schools have the obstacle of communication. Some have students from 90 different countries and have to try and interpret 80 different languages.

Private Schools are self funded, mostly tuition driven with a graduation rate typically exceeding 90%. Charter and Buffalo Public Schools have seen increases in graduation rates close to 65%. This is a 20% increase over the last 5 years. Charter Schools are an alternative to low performing schools. They are exempt from many state regulations, but must succeed in hitting established targets to stay open. Buffalo Public Schools must take everyone. Classroom sizes at times exceed allowed capacity. Teacher Union rules can be a challenge.

The Community Engagement program from all three types of schools has spurred an increase in GPA’s. Classroom write ups have decreased and they are finally getting students away from the cartoons and video games on the weekends.

What organizations are available that support students, teachers, and parents?

David Rust discussed at length the benefits of “Say Yes To Education”. Say Yes believes that all young people have what it takes to complete a postsecondary education. We partner with Buffalo to offer a citywide tuition scholarship. In joining the Say Yes Program, private colleges and universities agree to ensure that students from Say Yes communities whose annual family income is at or below $75,000 are eligible, at a minimum, to attend tuition-free, provided they are accepted through the institution’s regular admission process. Anibal Soler spoke about an anti bullying task force that has been created in The Buffalo Public Schools that has instituted training for teachers.

The Saturday after school programs offer petting zoo’s, swimming, basketball, and even cooking.

What about this day impacted you the most?

The visits to the schools. My personal experience was quite emotional, and the Group and Final Reflections proved everyone had some soul-stirring visits as well. We only had 3 classmates graduate from The Buffalo Public Schools, for many this was an eye opening experience.

There are too many stories to document here, but almost all of them spoke to the struggles the children and teachers endure. The impact on all of us was how these individuals overcome the battles they face. We saw many teachers with positive attitudes and children with smiling faces. We spoke with refugee’s that were in a war torn nation 3 years ago and next year are attending Canisius College. In the same breath we saw schools that were run down and teachers who seemed disinterested. The children and parents have to find ways to overcome these obstacles and we witnessed all of this firsthand.

How can we, as leaders in the community, work to improve education in WNY?

It is a theme that keeps popping up, but we all must work to reconnect the schools with the Communities. We must become more involved with many of the activities that are offered. We also want to become more informed. I felt we all took a large step in that direction today through “Leadership Buffalo” Now we must let others know what we learned and witnessed and see if we can influence our leadership to help this very important piece of our community.

Based on your day today, what is the biggest challenge in education in Buffalo today?

Our four person panel spoke to “The Umbrella of Poverty”. The Parents, students and even the schools are all fighting to escape this obstacle. Schools to not have the budgets to accomplish their objectives. Students in impoverished areas face gangs and drugs on their walks to schools. Parents struggle to discipline their children as they may be working so many hours they may not be available to help teachers with student problems. Poverty is a challenge that is so difficult to overcome.

How does the Servant Leadership trait of Listening apply to this day session?

The definition of listening is to give one’s attention to a sound. If you further research this you will also find it means “•take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or a request.”

This sums up the day session in a nutshell. Take notice of all we learned and listened to today and find at least one way to act upon it.

Additional thoughts or take-away’s?

The school visits were the most thought provoking part of the day. The reflections were wonderful. I think there are so many more stories left untold. Our leaders at each of the schools were very engaged. They wanted to talk about their challenges and achievements. These are stories our news and radio stations should be covering.