Sue Gillick on Running for School Board
by Sue Gillick, PhD
Being a candidate for the Board of Education has allowed me to connect with parents and community members on a day to day basis. As I walk from door to door, in the candidate forums, in the papers, and at the Board of Education meetings, I keep hearing one particular phrase: Something must be done.
This phrase is referring to the current state of the Buffalo Public Schools. Low graduation rates, abysmal attendance, and the idea that our children are not college and career ready are some of the primary concerns. The solutions to some of these issues are tried and proven programs that signify a commitment to making students the priority.
A primary issue on the mind of our parents is ensuring school atmospheres that are safe and conducive to learning. Parents understand that if our children are not in school and learning, they can easily be prey to other influences. I have been volunteering with Citizen Action and the Alliance for Quality Education in their effort to reduce the overwhelmingly high suspension rates of children in the Buffalo Public Schools, with a disproportionate number of Black and Latino students being suspended. With our effort and advocacy, the school board has now adopted a new policy based on intervention rather than punishment. It is an attempt, if implemented correctly, to get at the root causes of some of our children’s struggle with discipline. With my experience in designing and regulating policy changes, I will make sure that we are all accountable and that we see a drastic reduction in suspensions.
Most would agree that we need more parent and community investment and involvement in our schools. One proven solution is to make the transition to community schools, making a school the hub of the community. The benefit is that communities will become more involved when the physical school is used to tie in services such as health care, counseling, adult education, and after-school programs that can be housed centrally. The transition to community schools has been proven to rejuvenate neighborhoods and increase parent involvement in education.
To address the low graduation and attendance rates, we need to keep our students in school. The new Code of Conduct and the transition to community schools will assist with this, but more needs to happen. We need to have board members who are transparent and present and ready to be held accountable. We cannot know where we’re going unless we all see where we are. What the board knows, so should the public. And the public should have the say they deserve. How can we hold students to a standard of behavior if we do not hold ourselves just as accountable?
There are organizations in Buffalo and across the state that will fight to convince us that our children already have the resources they need to succeed. Yet, when we look around at our failing schools, we notice that they do not have the services, programs, and sports that other schools have. Education is not for some, it is for all students, and I will continue to fight for more funding and see to it that our resources are allocated equitably.
The Board of Education is not a stepping stone for other political or financial endeavors. The role of a Board of Education member is to make, approve, and regulate policy that will benefit children, and, in turn, their parents and the community. Yes, something must be done in Buffalo, but we are done settling for something. It’s time for solutions.
- Sue Gillick, PhD
Candidate for Buffalo Board of Education, North District (www.facebook.com/suegillickforboed)
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