SYRACUSE “The times they are a-changin’” said Bob Dylan in 1964, the year I graduated from high school. True then, true now, and on September 7, the times changed for over 20,000 Syracuse City School District Students.
There are some 19,000 students in K-12 grades and an additional 1,300 in pre-kindergarten. They are in five high schools, six middle schools, six K-8 Schools, 14 elementary schools, and four alternative schools/programs. They are 53 percent black, 28 percent white, 12 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native American/Alaskan. They are incredibly diverse in their demographics, in their interests, in their abilities, in their goals and in their needs, but they share one common bond – they are in school.
Pre-K students are away from home for the first time in their young lives. Some kindergarteners have moved up from Pre-K to a new adventure, and other kindergarteners are in school for the first time. Elementary students move to middle school, middle schoolers move to high school. Juniors and seniors count up their credits and ponder the future — the unknown that comes next.
At Porter School, I watched the times change for several classes of kindergartners and their parents and for the SCSD. Very few students are ever greeted on their first day as these were — by SCSD Superintendent Sharon Contreras and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, women important to their future, but on this first day of school, just visitors who made them feel welcome and cared about.
Ms. Contreras served breakfast and she and Mayor Miner welcomed students to school, chatting with them in their classrooms about their new shoes and their new friends and their new world.
There is a “first day feeling” in Porter School as there is in all schools. The energy is intense — the teachers are the calmest in the place. This is their specialty. The “pre-game jitters” give way to the excitement of the new year and the chance to do once again what it is they do so well — teach.