The art of letter writing may be old-fashioned, but it still gets the message across.
And the message of hopes, dreams and aspirations for the Buffalo Public Schools is the theme of the new book, “Letters to the Superintendent, a Community Responds.”
“I shared my hopes that the new superintendent could be a consensus builder and understand the nature of the frustration and impatience in the community,” said Mary B. Huber, assistant vice provost at the University at Buffalo.
Huber was one of 138 authors of letters collected for the book, which was presented to Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela C. Brown at a reception and book-signing this week at Daemen College’s International Center for Excellence in Animation in the Tri-Main Building.
“It’s something I will treasure and continue to learn from in my tenure here,” said Brown, who’s been on the job five months.
More than 100 people attended the event, including many, like Huber and Alexis Stover, who submitted letters for the compendium.
“I thank you for being a role model. I wish you good luck,” Alexis, a senior at International Prep said during the ceremony.
She and other student contributors are identified in the book by their initials to protect the privacy of students who might not want to be identified.
The book includes submissions from parents, students, grandparents, business leaders, focus-group participants, city officials, organizational leaders, immigrants and refugees, and others.
The deadline for submissions came before the June announcement naming Brown as the new superintendent, so none of the writers knew exactly whom they were writing to, said Peggy Brooks-Bertram, who was commissioned by Say Yes to Education to compile and edit the letters into book form.
The private, national, nonprofit foundation promises full-tuition scholarships to public colleges and universities in New York for graduates of district and charter schools in Buffalo.
By the time the book was published, Brooks-Bertram inserted “Dear Dr. Brown” at the beginning of each letter.
Topics in the book range from in-school suspensions to Regents exams to the type of food served in schools. And many letters were filled with hope and well-wishes.
In her letter, Alexis wrote, “Many of our young girls don’t have positive role models in their lives. It will be very powerful for us to see such a successful woman like you in a high level position. As we watch how you carry yourself, perhaps we will have more women like you.”
The idea for the book came to Brooks-Bertram when she started going to Say Yes to Education community meetings and forums designed to gauge what the community wanted in a new superintendent.
Much like officials from Say Yes, Brooks-Bertram was shocked by the low attendance and participation at the community meetings.
Brooks-Bertram was president of the first Parent Advisory Council in Buffalo in 1987, and a former chairwoman of the Early Childhood Centers for Buffalo Public Schools.
In 2009, she co-edited and published “Go, Tell Michelle,” a collection of letters and poems from 100 women to first lady Michelle Obama.
Students accounted for about 30 percent of the submissions in “Letters to the Superintendent.”
The writers ranged in age from 12 to 80 and involved all types of nationalities and ethnicities, including immigrant and refugee populations.
One letter was written in Arabic and translated into English.