Lynn Seagren Bass, Principal of Tapestry Charter High School, speaks at May 16th Rally

18 May

Lynn Seagren Bass has been involved in education, and education reform for over 15 years. She spoke out at the May 16th rally in support of the DPCC’s mission, and in support of a collaborative effort for education reform. Here are her comments:

My name is Lynn Seagren Bass and I have lived in three worlds of education.  I have been: a parent activist, a BTG union member, and now a Charter School leader.

As a PARENT, I joined the Site Based Management Team (SBMT) at my daughter’s School #64 when she began kindergarten in 1995. I was a part of the DPCC when it was starting in the late 90s, and we were pushing for improvements then.

16 school years later, with my daughter now entering senior year in college, things are not better, but worse.  We were given promises and told to be patient.  How long are Buffalo parents supposed to wait for change?  How many thousands of children do we drop out and lose to the streets before the adults who are paid to do a job actually do the job for which they are paid?

In 1996, I began my ten years as a MEMBER OF THE BUFFALO TEACHERS’ FEDERATION after 14 years in a suburban district. At the start I was full of hope for urban education. During that time I was a member of the Closing the Gap Initiative started by Regent Robert Bennett to bring mental health and medical resources to schools to strengthen families and kids. Who could argue with that? But I sat in meetings, and watched my union leader, Phil Rumore, resist this effort.  The BTF grieved the Family Resource Center initiative and blocked progress.  I was disillusioned.

In 2001, I was sent by a national parent group to Boston, MA, to look at FRCs and also at a hopeful improvement model in Boston called Pilot Schools.  With small concessions in the union contract, these schools are innovative and successful using union teachers.  As a union delegate, I eagerly brought that idea back to Phil Rumore, but he wanted no part of innovation.  In fact, by 2004, he told me he was grieving Buffalo’s own innovative Middle College Program, fashioned after a NYC model.  Around the country in other struggling cities, like Chicago, Boston, NYC, San Diego, and Denver, leaders tried new approaches, proving it was possible to educate city children well, but Buffalo still was not ready to change.

By 2006, I had thoroughly lost faith that there was going to be flexibility of adults for the sake of children in the BPS. With frustration I watched those in power stay stubbornly stuck in protecting employees’ interests over children’s interests as if they were mutually exclusive. The leaders with the power have seemed frozen in place, including Williams, Rumore, and Mayor Brown.  Everyone has blamed others and made excuses and wasted time, without looking at themselves and acting for change with urgency as if it mattered.

By 2006, I felt fortunate to escape the BPS and to renew hope by entering the world of charter schools.

Now as a CHARTER LEADER, I am the principal of Tapestry Charter High School in which my son is a senior, accepted to college with 100% of his classmates.  I know charters are not a silver bullet or a simple magical answer, but we were designed to be change agents, proving what is possible.  There are hundreds of children on the waiting list now for Tapestry for fall.  Thousands of families are in charters or seeking them, feeling desperate for a safe, caring, and effective school environment.  It is pathetic that there is such a clamoring for alternatives to the BPS, but who can blame parents? The charters and other change models throughout the country have proved that it IS possible to do better than the status quo, possible to inspire children rather than fail them.  Parents cannot settle for 50% graduation rates.  Parents know that blame for failure does not lie with poverty or race or zip code, but it is shared by the responsible adults… who must be ready to be creative, to collaborate, to cooperate, to change, and to listen to parents.

In closing, I am pleased that the DPCC and Sam Radford have renewed my hope for parent voice in Buffalo.  I am proud to join my voice of experience with theirs in demanding a system that works for all children NOW! No more waiting patiently! We must look to national models of quality urban schools and implement those NOW!  We must revise the union contracts and put aside egos NOW!  I challenge Buffalo’s leaders to do what children need them to do…  work together unselfishly and act responsibly. Thank you to the DPCC for raising parent voices with URGENCY… and for demanding quality schools NOW!  Our children deserve nothing less.

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One Response to “Lynn Seagren Bass, Principal of Tapestry Charter High School, speaks at May 16th Rally”

  1. Maureen May 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    These are exciting times indeed! We’re all in this Together… Thank you, Lynn

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