BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Public School 30, the Frank Sedita Academy on Buffalo’s west side, is one of the newest of 15 community schools in the district.
"We had to get people re-energized again and excited and motivated about their schools,” said Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash.
Rafael Perez is the principal of the Sedita Academy. He grew up in Buffalo, returned to the neighborhood as an adult, and is now leading the school.
"This is not just a professional endeavor for me this is personal as well,” Perez said. “I'm from Buffalo, but not only am I from Buffalo, I'm right from this community."
That's the idea behind the community schools – an emphasis on educating children in their own neighborhoods without having to bus them across the city, with ownership and input from those who live right around the corner. The community schools are open into the evenings and some on weekends, to provide opportunities beyond the classroom for kids and their families.
"Total wraparound services that includes the health needs, the wellness needs, legal assistance,” Cash said. “So it's a total community effort that participates."
A key component of the initiative includes involving community members, not just students, in a wide variety of programs. The Sedita Academy will begin its Strong Community Schools Saturday Academy this week.
"What we found was that people are looking for things to do together as a family on the weekends,” said Dr. David Mauricio, Chief Strategic Alignment and Innovation for the school district. “We also provide them with a free opportunity, free breakfast, free lunch, free engaging activates, swimming, basketball, library, teacher initiatives."
The program is funded by the state, and officials say more than 700 kids are enrolled at the Sedita Academy. Thousands more attend the 14 other community schools throughout the district.
For Perez, an educator invested in his own community, it all adds up.
"It should lead to children performing better in classes,” he said. “It should be lead to better attendance. It should lead to more parental involvement. It should lead to less suspension, which will all lead to academic achievement."