Keeping up with our promise on aiming a spotlight on education in the city of Buffalo, we caught up with Sue Gillick who is running for a seat on the city of Buffalo Board of Education. We encourage residents to learn about the candidates running and to go out and vote. The election for the Board of Education is coming up on May 7, 2013. She is running in the North District which primarily includes a large section of North Buffalo. Over a couple of mugs of some delicious coffee at Sweetness 7 Café over on Grant St we discussed some things. Here’s what happened.
PB: What district are you running in?
PB: What geographical boundary in Buffalo does this cover, approximately?
SG: Mostly North Buffalo.
you can see original map here
PB: Are you a lifelong Buffalo/Western New York resident, what’s your story?
SG: I’m a lifelong resident; I am a Buffalo Public Schools graduate, I graduated from Riverside High. This has always been my home.
PB: Ok, go Riverside, so you’re home grown, and you’re familiar with Buffalo’s ups and downs – the golden era?
SG: Yes I am the golden era and error. And, also the blindness of the past couple of decades but it seems as though we’re coming out of it a little bit though.
PB: You have a PHD in clinical psychology?
PB: What does that mean for those who don’t know? Exactly what does a clinical psychologist do?
SG: A clinical psychologist is one that actually does therapy with patients. I worked specifically with children so when I first started in Children’s Hospital (Buffalo) I was doing all kinds of therapy with children. When I moved to the schools I continued doing therapy with children there, and I also did testing/evaluations for learning disabilities, handicaps, or strengths.
PB: With that background, what are some of the problems or some of the things that you noticed that were working in the Buffalo Public Schools?
SG: Of course there is the school climate, it’s very bad. We’re hoping the Code of Conduct will improve that. In cities where it has been used before like Denver and Baltimore it has reduced suspension rates by 40% in one, 60% in the other, and reduced truancy which are the key factors for predicting graduation rates. Because it was previously a punitive punishment based system, I want to make sure that goes away. In terms of special ED, very simply Buffalo does not follow the law. They need Help. There’s no communication between the Central Office and the schools. Decisions are made without really knowing what’s going on in the schools. We have to have consistency throughout the district. You can’t have a preschooler thrown out for 5 days for saying “no” to a principal in one school and that being OK in another school, or somebody being thrown out for 7 weeks because they have a cell phone. So, I want consistency throughout the district, I want all the schools brought up. Now at this point we have a couple of schools that are performing well, but the idea is to bring up all the schools so that every child can have an opportunity to fulfill their potential.
PB: What are your thoughts on the Say Yes program?
SG: I think it has a lot of promise. I’ve been very pleased with it so far. Not only are they offering scholarships but they’re working with the kids. They are offering mentoring, tutoring, counseling – the kind of help the kids need. What an opportunity. I know that the statistics are not clear but we’ve already seen a little bit of a change of attitude in the kids towards school. I would love to see all the people who raced to the suburbs to run away from Buffalo Public Schools to just kick themselves for doing that.
PB: How long have you been involved with Citizen’s Action (CA) of WNY? How important is the advocacy work that they do around education?
SG: I’ve been working with them for about a year or so. CA was working on the Code of Conduct most recently and the Buffalo Board of Education fought us on this in the beginning. We protested, and protested. Our last protest was in September on the Buffalo City Hall steps. Since then there has been a turnaround. The Superintendent has been cooperative but I want to see this happen more often.
PB: Do you think that having a good education system fits in with living sustainably?
SG: I think absolutely it does because we want all of our children to have an opportunity to do what they can do. When you drop out of school you lose a lot of opportunity. It’s not a thing of this is better or worse, but it just gives you more opportunity. I don’t believe that there should just be one kind of diploma. I think this regent’s diploma business is not fair because all of our kids have different gifts. There should be apprenticeships. A good education allows every citizen to evaluate the type of politics we have going on.
You can follow Sue and her campaign on FB or learn more about her here