RL Education Day

Day Session Blog: Kelley Bilz, Independent Health

What are the similarities, differences, and challenges of public, private, and charter schools?

Similarities- They are all trying to do what is best for the student so the student can get the best education possible. Each type of school has their own unique formula of what that means but it comes down to having strong/dedicated teachers, engaging the parents and strong student attendance both physically and mentally.

Differences-Government Funding is provided to public schools but not provided to private (funded through the community and tuition) and for charter schools is provided based on demographics and financials of each student. Funding in general affects all sectors in that it can cause programs/sports/ aid to be reduced or cut all together. Transportation is provided to students in public school through a bus company where private/charter schools require public transportation. Dress Code policies are non-existent in public schools where private and charter schools have a strict dress code policy. Class room sizes are typically larger and have a larger teacher to student ratio in public schools as compared to private and charter.

Challenges- Nancy Langer said it best "Just because resources are different doesn't mean that challenges are." Student Attendance is a big challenge and has been viewed in private and charter schools as the key to student's achieving the best education possible. Retaining dedicated teachers for private and charter schools since salaries are considerably lower than public.

What choices exist in Buffalo and WNY, for educating students K-12; and what supports are in place to help students succeed?

From being on the planning committee for Education Day, I realized that there is an abundance of choices that a child has regarding education in the Buffalo/WNY area. Some of the schools that we had the privilege to tour today included: Charter School for Applied Technology, Elmwood Village Charter School, Nativity Miguel (St. Augustine Campus), Nardin, Buffalo Academy of the Performing Arts, Emerson School of Hospitality and Burgard to name a few.

In addition to having several options available to kids Anibal Soler, Jr. mentioned in his morning speech that we also need to have strong community support, and therefore the Education Bargain with Students and Parents was formed. The vision for this program was to use a "whole child" model and benefit both the child and the surrounding community. Soler went on to say due to a partnership with Say Yes to Education, community schools were created in the Buffalo Public school system providing students and/or parents with "wrap around services." Some of these services included: Meals, Mental Health clinics, Afterschool/Saturday programs and Parent Center offerings to name a few. As a result of these "wrap around services" the Buffalo Public Schools have seen an increase in school attendance, high school graduation rate and even college graduation.

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

  • Having dedicated & supportive teachers
  • Strong parental support
  • Diversity- it's ok to be different. Everyone is unique in their own way
  • Structure-both accountability and disciplinary
  • Food/Shelter/Clothing- things that people take for granted
  • Extracurriculars- sports, hobbies etc.

What about this day impacted you the most?

I thought both the school visits and the reflections at the end of the day were very eye opening.

Personally, with not being a graduate from the Buffalo Public School system I was very naive in that I thought every school was the same as the school I attended in the suburbs. My impression was quickly changed based on our site visits. I realized that even though both the schools I visited were on two different sides of the spectrum, they each had needs and challenges which were important to them and the success of their school. I realized just how important some of the "wrap around services" are to these schools and hope that our group can bring awareness that there is still work that needs to be done.

During Reflections it became apparent that it wasn't only our group that had great experiences from the day. Everyone from the Rising Leader class was sharing their visit experiences and sharing pieces that they thought were important. I think that our class could agree that we see the change in the Buffalo Public School System for the positive and definitely have a different view of the system since our visit, however, we also see work still needs to be done.

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

I think it is very important as leaders to share our experiences. We are not helping our community by keeping quiet. My hope would be that by sharing both the positive and negative experiences from the day with our friends, colleagues, families and anyone that wants to listen that we can improve the education in Buffalo and WNY for the better. Our children and the children of the future are counting on us.

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

Honestly, I don't think there is just one challenge. After listening to the panel discussion this morning and visiting the sites I think each challenge is linked to another therefore to rank them I don't think would be accurate. I think all schools in the Public/ Private and Charter sectors are affected by each of these challenges in their own way some more heavily than others. I think the issue is we try to focus on only one when we actually should be encompassing many. The biggest challenges that became apparent to me during this session were:

  • Poverty
  • Student Attendance (both physically & mentally)
  • Funding- which has a direct correlation to Poor Transportation/ Poor Nutrition
  • Diversity
  • Parent Engagement/Support

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

I think it was very important going into the session with an open mind and a willingness to learn and listen. In today's society it is so easy to pass judgement and/or form pre conceive notions about something prior to experiencing them first hand.

I think the session provided us with a small piece of what everyday life is like in the BPS for children. I think that by listening to the students, teachers and administrators we were able to really connect with them on a different level and better understand just how important education is. It isn't just about the curriculum, for some it is what brings them joy, provides them with guidance and gives them the hope and confidence to succeed in life and never give up.

Additional thoughts or take-away's?

I really want to thank the Leadership Buffalo Program for providing us with this great opportunity and something that I feel has changed my life for the better. Now I challenge our class to act on this knowledge. I think Albert Einstein said it best "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."