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Thoughtful collaboration needed to improve schools

I debated writing this, but over several weeks of walking my dog on South Buffalo streets and seeing yard signs promoting a city School Board hopeful, the thoughts keep coming up. The sign states: “Help Take Our Schools Back.” I ask myself, “Take them back to when, or take them back from whom?”

State education mandates and city demographics make “take back to” seemingly impossible. This leaves “take back from whom?” And how does this ameliorate the barriers city children face preventing them from participating in a successful school experience?

At its most basic level, successful learning is a collaboration of nature and nurture. Let’s assume we have some influence over nurture and little to none over nature. One of the strongest protective factors for a child’s mental health is a reliable, positive support system. To me, that includes a safe, non-adversarial home and school environment. Without this, the odds for success drop.

A recent conversation with a former local School Board member revealed that there may be a correlation between a school’s performance and the number of subsidized lunches served. More specifically, the more subsidized lunches served, the lower the performance. For the sake of discussion, we could agree that two major factors influencing learning are strong supports and family economics. The school system has limited influence over family economics. This leaves developing quality supports. From my perspective, this takes thoughtful collaboration. Consider the positive effects of a safe and non-adversarial environment.

My point is, it’s not about taking anything back but about knowing there is someone out there who has your back. I find it difficult to believe a slash-and-burn approach has a very high probability of enhancing academic performance or creating a learning experience that benefits anyone.

Dan Newberry

Buffalo