If Nicole Thompson were superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, everybody in school would wear a uniform – including teachers and administrators – and the superintendent would get out of her office and “go up to the schools and help out,” as well as encourage the students “to learn beyond the classroom.”
But Nicole isn’t the superintendent of schools.
She is a 10½-year-old sixth-grader at Dr. Drew Science Magnet School, and she was the first-place winner Sunday in an essay contest titled “If You Were Superintendent, How Would You Improve the Buffalo Schools?”
She was one of about a dozen young essayists who competed in the contest at the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library on Jefferson Avenue.
The most popular suggestion among the essayists was that there should be more emphasis on instruction in mathematics. A couple of them suggested that mathematics be extended outside the classroom and into an extracurricular math club that could meet after school.
Other suggestions included:
• Additional training for teachers.
• More nutritious meals in school cafeterias – especially at breakfast.
• Safer, healthier and cleaner school buildings.
• More extracurricular activities, including art, music and sports.
Eva M. Doyle, a retired teacher, prolific writer and lecturer on minority group affairs, organized the essay contest for students from grades 4 through 12.
“A common theme among the essays is that everybody needs to change: parents, students and teachers,” Doyle said.
“Each of these students went above and beyond in writing these essays.”
Except for Nicole, most of the contestants are students of Charles T. Lyons, a fifth-grade teacher at Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy. Each of the winning essayists and runners-up earned a certificate from the Board of Education, a cash prize and, in some cases, a book or school supplies.
School Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman, of the Ferry District, said copies of the essays will be distributed among fellow members of the board and to the superintendent.
Nicole, the first-prize winner, said she enjoys writing and currently is working on a Halloween story.
Regarding school uniforms, Nicole wrote:
“I will want all schools, students, faculty and staff to wear uniforms to show fairness, school pride and to be proud to be in the Buffalo public school system.
“I believe sooner or later everyone in the Buffalo, N.Y., schools system will wear uniforms. Because I don’t like when people talk about each other. For example, ‘Oh, she wore that the other day. Oh, just look at her.’
“Sometimes fights can start or other hurtful things happen. I want to end all of that.”
She also wrote, “Some teachers need more training to help them be more patient to break things down for students to understand before leaving the classroom – or offer additional help.”
As superintendent, Nicole said, she would “check out the schools and see if everyone is following the Buffalo public schools policy. I would take a sneak peek at the teachers to make sure they are doing their job right. I also would check on the principals and assistant principals to ensure that the policies that I set in place are being followed.
“I would encourage the students to challenge themselves to a higher learning level … to do their very best because education can change your life and prepare you for college and your future. This is to promote the best education for the students.”
Doyle was a teacher for 30 years, and she has written a column for the weekly newspapers the Criterion and the Challenger for 33 years. She is in the midst of a series of 33 public lectures on African-American life and history at various public libraries and is the host of local radio and television programs called “Eye on History,” broadcast every few weeks.