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 get to know Buffalo mom Leah Daniels.
Charter school mom Leah Daniels has worked as a teacher in the Buffalo City School District. It was because of her background that she knew she wanted something different for her daughter Legend.
“I didn’t like the setup. You would have 30-something kids in a classroom with one teacher. It was too much,” Daniels said.
Daniels wanted more individual attention and focus on her child – and she knew she wanted her to get the best possible education.
First she tried out a local private school, but the cost was too steep. Daniels kept looking for a public school option, and had been hearing great things about charter schools. She applied at two charters – Elmwood Village Charter School and King Center Charter School – but Legend was put on the waiting lists for both.
Daniels kept looking for other options and eventually someone in her doctoral program told her about the new Charter School of Inquiry (CSI) in Buffalo. She read up on the school, liked what she saw, applied for a seat, and now Legend is enjoying class in the first grade.
Daniels says she found what she was looking for for her child.
“This has been a great introduction to charter schools. The school allows Legend to have more freedom, but she also gets the attention and feedback that she needs. The staff is more hands-on than in the district schools,” Daniels said.
Daniels has been particularly impressed by how open the lines of communication with the school have been. The school hosts a Q&A with the principal once a month, and with so many questions around Common Core, they also held a forum where parents could ask about their children’s work.
These are programs Daniels finds especially helpful as she is a busy mother, balancing work and going to school for her doctorate. She says the teachers also keep in regular contact with parents to help provide structure for the kids, and the staff makes an effort know every family.
Daniels said that this is very unique to Buffalo’s charters since in the bigger district schools it was not common for the staff and administrators to know the families personally.
“I’m not as involved as I’d like to be because of my doctoral program. It’s been very stressful, very crazy, but it works because of the additional supports provided by the school,” she says. “I go every other week on Friday and Saturday, so I can still help Legend with her homework every day, and I can go to school events and help out when they need.”
Daniels had heard great things about charters before, but being a charter parent now has solidified her as a supporter. With Buffalo families in desperate need of more high-quality options, she welcomes the idea of new charters coming to the city. As Legend gets older, Daniels plans to keep her in a charter school, especially after what she has seen so far.
“I’m impressed. The different things they offer are so good for kids. They have Girl Scouts, AmeriCorps workers helping to teach the kids, there are a lot of good things happening there.”
Good things that will hopefully set Legend and her classmates up for a lifetime of academic success.