Ever since I was a little girl and in school I was anxious for summer to end and school to start. I remember making a chart and crossing off the days until school started and I could see my friends every day. School represented learning so many new things but also having fun and growing with my friends. And I have to admit, planning what I would wear everyday:)
Even though I am no longer in school I still get an extra spring in my step when I know school is about to start and the weather is getting ready to change. Every kid I speak to that has started school I am anxious to hear about their first day and what they are looking forward to this year. This year I feel especially excited about school starting in St. Louis, especially the city of St. Louis. You all know that I am very thankful for the education I received and that helped me get where I am and I want the same for all children.
It has been a tough time for urban school across our country and sometimes it seems that the work towards improvement is getting harder. In some ways, it is. The economy doesn’t make it easier to provide for any schools let alone the schools in the inner city where buildings are older and student population is dwindling.
I feel the tide is changing in favor of our children..FINALLY! In St. Louis Public Schools we have a new Superintendent, Dr. Kelvin Adams. Dr. Adams started last Fall but this is his first full year and he has had to close schools, change curriculum, fire ineffective principals and teachers, work out a new agreement with the teacher’s union, cut $53 million from the budget , hire new sr. staff and attract students back to the district with new programs. We could not have a better leader for SLPS. Dr. Adams is thoughtful and focused on the children and their education. He is supportive of community involvement and a “system of schools” that works for children. I am honored to know him and to learn from his steady and authoritative hand. He sets an example for children and adults.
This year our city children will also benefit from new charter schools like KIPP Inspire, The Language Immersion Academy and North City Charter School. Charter Schools are not new to St. Louis but the oversight and selection and prioritization of what charters will be in St. Louis is greatly improved. Thanks to Mayor Slay and his education guru Robbin Wahby, we are finally making progress. Standards have been raised and the entrepreneurs behind these schools are being given the visibility and opportunity to create the “system of schools” that Dr. Adams supports rather than just a school system. These new Charters (and there will be more) has also helped the local union leaders see that we must all work together to create great schools. Collaborations FOR children must take precedence over politics and we must raise the bar of excellence.
Another exciting step forward in SLPS is the fact that there are 28 new Principals. Two of the Principals are alumni of Teach For America and they are leading new pilot schools which have been championed by Dr. Adams. Nathalie Means and Lisa Nyuns are experienced education professionals who will make a difference for our children by creating a high bar for success. I am proud of what they have achieved. 55% of all of our St. Louis Corps Members stay in education which is a great credit to our community and to the opportunity they see to make a difference. Emily Masengale a Teach For America alum is one of 6 finalists for Missouri Teacher of the Year—we are BEARY proud of her. One more tidbit: Jeremy Esposito, the school leader at KIPP Inspire is also a TFA Alum!
Last Year Build-A-Bear Workshop helped jump start the funding for teacher projects throughout the USA through donorschoose.org. I have heard from hundreds of teachers about what this means to them and now we are putting a bigger press towards encouraging teachers to post their projects and donors to give. It does take a village to raise a bear and a classroom…. If you haven’t checked out this fabulous website to help public school teachers go now to http://www.donorchoose.org and become a citizen philanthropist now for as little as $5. It is micro financing at its best!
To all of my young BABW friends who are still in school, have a great year. We are counting on you to get the education you need to be a success in the future and hopefully future executives at Build-A-Bear Workshop.
Hugs to all,