The New York Twenty: Real Charter Champions profiles the everyday people who are the champions to their children: parents and grandparents who make the critical choice to send their kids to charter schools. Over the next several weeks we will be sharing the real stories of charter parents around New York State. Today, meet Buffalo grandparent Judy Gozdalski.
“It feels like our schools are all turned around. They aren’t helping children; they just leave them behind. Don’t you want our kids to become good citizens who are educated and can get decent jobs? Don’t you want to prepare kids to run things and care for each other?”
Judy Gozdalski’s passion for children and education is clear. This grandmother from Buffalo talks about working with the Head Start organization, her community and her grandson’s education – and you see how much she cares. She wants her grandson to have a safe place to learn and thrive.
“My daughter wanted her son to become better than she is. The Buffalo district schools aren’t helping all children to learn, so we looked other places,” Gozdalski said.
She said it seemed like far too many children were falling through the cracks in Buffalo district schools, so they searched all over for different options. Gozdalski found out about Enterprise Charter School from one of her doctors. There was a lot of positive buzz from families sending their children there, so she applied for a seat for Samuel-Joseph.
As the lottery came, Samuel-Joseph didn’t get in, and instead was enrolled in a Catholic school. But in January of his kindergarten year a spot opened up at Enterprise.
When he started attending Enterprise, Gozdalski was blown away by the dedication of the staff.
“These teachers don’t get paid enough! They are willing to be there for those kids no matter what,” she said, “That’s a great thing to see because you don’t get that in a lot of schools. A lot of times you’ll see teachers say, ‘Clock-out time, see ya.’ But these teachers will stay a little longer with the kids.”
The worries Gozdalski and her daughter had about Samuel-Joseph falling through the cracks just aren’t there anymore.
Samuel-Joseph needs help with his speech and goes to occupational therapy, and the school has worked hard to provide whatever he needs. They meet with the family to discuss his plan in detail, and help him progress.
“Enterprise works with him, not against him. Some schools don’t work with the kids, but here I’ve seen the process of him getting better each day, instead of not having any help at all,” Gozdalski said.
And she sees the other ways Samuel-Joseph is influenced. This year he has a male teacher, and without a constant male figure in his life, this has been a huge boost to him. Godzalski says this is priceless -- and it’s made him so much more engaged.
Enterprise hosts family nights with different themes and activities. Samuel-Joseph loves those and makes sure Gozdalski attends with him each time. Enterprise’s after school and summer programs keep him active year-round. Knowing he almost always has a safe place to spend time gives the people who love him peace of mind.
“Our area isn’t the greatest. It is bad when you’ve got kids so young and wonder if it is safe for them to go outside. I love that I know he’s safe when he’s at the school.”
That safe and respectful environment is exactly what Gozdalski was looking for.
“Leadership starts here. This school teaches these children to become leaders. It is a great comfort and if it wasn’t here it would be such a shame.”