Spotlight on Buffalo’s community schools

NYSUT: “They have shown how it's done"
Posted at 5:26 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 17:26:47-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The Buffalo Public School District had a chance to showcase the success of two of its community schools.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) toured the West Hertel Academy and Lydia T. Wright schools Friday.

The union used the visit to call on the state to invest $100-million to “dramatically increase” the number of community schools statewide.

West Hertel is a community school.

“We’re going to start with the total again and we're going to break it apart,” instructed a West Hertel teacher.

While West Hertel students were engaged in a math lesson, school leaders gathered with the state's largest teachers union to highlight the successes seen in this community school.

West Hertel classroom.

Several years ago West Hertel was transformed into one of the district's 24 community schools.

You may ask yourself, what is a community school — according to the district website — community schools work to “bridge families and communities enhancing student learning.”

“And they have shown how it's done and right now we want to invest in expanding this model — having community schools throughout the state and throughout all communities,” remarked Melinda Person, executive director, NYSUT.

NYSUT is calling on the state to include $100-million in the upcoming state budget, so schools like West Hertel can be replicated across the state.

Inside West Hertel.

Community schools are key in providing families with wrap-around services and removing obstacles for academic needs, even providing health and mental health care.

NYSUT is calling the city school district a “trailblazer”.

“The school is just not a brick and mortar building for education, but it's also a community school,” explained Shawn King, West Hertel kindergarten teacher.

Shawn King, West Hertel kindergarten teacher.

“What would you say is so great about being a community school here in the city?” Buckley asked.

“What is great about being at a community school is that you have an extension to the neighborhood — the parents need extra help,” replied King.

“And we aim high!" Principal Cecelie Owens declared.

Owens says the goal of the community school is to increase student achievement and to work closely with school families.

West Hertel Principal Cecelie Owens.

“And what's so great really — about it is that it's a family approach. It's a family model and we approach things with that attitude,” Owens said.

As a community school families can visit on Saturdays for activities and events. That includes activities for the kids, sports, and exercise.

West Hertel community programs.

“We’re able to have Saturday academies which we bring in about three to 400 families when we have our Saturday academies. We offer a wide variety of activities for our students and our families,” noted Owens.

Two state lawmakers from Buffalo, Senator Sean Ryan and Assemblyman Jonathan Rivera both are calling on Albany to support funding to create more community schools statewide and right here in the queen city.