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By Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes

Looking at the recent media headlines, the numbers of low-performing schools, mandates from the state education commissioner, cuts in program and extracurricular activities and state Regents and federal reform efforts, one would think that the quality of teachers in the district is as poor as the results. This constant barrage of negativity kills hope and must be demoralizing for students, teachers and the community as a whole. Furthermore, it’s in direct conflict with the many attempts to grow the local economy.

Everyone knows investors and businesses need communities with an educated and skilled workforce. Recent surveys of existing employers speak loudly of the need for skilled and trained employees to fulfill both current and future employment needs. The population is aging, and with baby boomers retiring, positions are either being eliminated or left unfilled due to an inability to find quality help.

The future of the entire Buffalo community is contingent on the successful education of all children. According to a recent study by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute’s mobile safety net project, of the 23,100 higher-paying jobs created in East Buffalo, only 2,150 are being held by East Side residents. This cannot be tolerated. The only option is for all children, young adults and adults to get educated and prepared for college and career and technical training.

To be honest, after years of dealing with these issues, my confidence in the Regents, the Buffalo Board of Education and your organized leadership has diminished. I do, however, have strong faith in you, the front line: rank-and-file teachers. I believe that you know what we need to fix the problem. As a former teacher and the daughter of a retired school teacher, I believe that teachers are compassionate people who both value their jobs and the responsibility that they have to their students. Teachers don’t choose this profession because of pay alone; they choose to teach because they believe in their innate and learned abilities to make a difference in their students’ lives.

I believe in you. I don’t think that you have been appropriately engaged in this discourse. So please accept my request to share with me: What do you need to successfully educate the students in your class?

With all due respect, I am fully aware that many children enter your classroom with all sorts of social ills and low self-esteem; these may hinder but are not barriers to educating them. You know what they need to be successful. So again, the question is: What do you need? What will it take to get the job done?

I look forward to your candid response. Please forward your responses to my district office at peoplec@assembly.state.ny.us.

Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes represents Buffalo in the Assembly.