Bias alert: I love my kids’ Milwaukee Public School, La Escuela Fratney.
It’s a smaller school, K4 to grade 5, which means we’ll be playing the “where’re-the-kids-going-for-middle-school game” sooner than I’d like. But I’m a monolingual mom whose heart races every time I hear my 6- and 8-year-old speak beautifully accented Spanish. I appreciate their help when I fail to bridge the language gap at our neighborhood taqueria, and they can multiply in two languages. Neat.
Anyway, 2012 has been a big year for Fratney. Our longtime principal, Ms. Rita Tenorio, retired and Fratney was just named a GE Foundation Demonstration School. Alongside their peers across Wisconsin and in 45 other states, Fratney students, teachers and parents are adjusting to the Common Core State Standards for career and college preparation. In all this flurry of activity, some folks don’t even know about our new principal. Read below for the inside scoop on Ms. Llanas Buckman, ripped from the front page of the Fratney PTA newsletter!
Sylvia Llanas Buckman is the new principal *at La Escuela Fratney, but she is a familiar face in Milwaukee Public Schools. She’s worked in the district since 1984, when she moved to Milwaukee at age 21 with a degree in special education from the University of Wisconsin.
Familiarity with the district stems from her experiences as a teacher of special education, a program implementer and a literacy coach in several bilingual and English-dominant schools. “Familiar” is a word that also describes how Sylvia wants parents and children to feel as they walk into La Escuela Fratney. Add to that word another: “welcome.”
“Our school is a community, and I really want to maintain Fratney’s strengths as a community of learners and leaders. Really, I want everyone in our school to sense that when you come into our school – everybody belongs here.
“And, I want to be able to point to more concrete evidence of what that feeling is – what we do well to make Fratney a safe, child-centered place for every learner.”
Arts, books, Playworks
Adding that “not everyone learns the same way, not everyone is going to be touched in the same way,” Sylvia says the Fratney community will continue to emphasize quality in academic and extracurricular programming. Librarian Mayra Negron and her tarantulas (don’t worry, they’re pets) are back in the library for 2012-13.
Visual arts return to Fratney on a regular schedule. Thanks to some aggressive and delicious parent fundraising (watch for news about this year’s spaghetti-dinner fundraiser!) and the very generous support of a local foundation, Playworks will be back on the playground this year teaching kids games and leadership and team-building skills every recess period.
Posters, celebrations and conversations among kids and Fratney faculty will help blend MPS’ Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program into the Fratney community. At Fratney this means: “setting the tone with regards to expectations about what it means to be safe, responsible and respectful. What does that look like in lunchroom, playground, busses?” Sylvia asks. “We’ll try to focus a little more energy on helping kids and families understand what that looks like.”
“Continue the work”
But why Sylvia? Why Fratney? She says she was inspired to take on the principal role after experiencing leadership transitions at other MPS sites. “I was at Lloyd St. School for 15 years, and it was a phenomenal school. That’s why I wanted to take that challenge of being a principal. I know how important a good leader is in any building, to have someone who can continue the work.”
Lloyd and Hopkins schools eventually merged to become Hopkins Lloyd Community School, now in its second year of operation. But by 2005, Sylvia had arrived at Fratney in the position of program implementer. What she loved about that job are things she most looks forward to continuing as a principal: staff development and academic implementation, busing, and working directly – though not as often as she’d like – with Fratney kids and families. Her more recent work as a literacy coach, she adds, taught her much of what she knows about curriculum.
Having received extensive training and mentoring support from previous school principal Rita Tenorio and others in MPS – budgets, finances, teacher departures and curriculum evaluation are some of the topics she’s studied most intensely these last few months – Sylvia says she hopes to build on Fratney’s strengths with the support of the school’s PTA, other parents and one of the school’s strongest assets: its dedicated, innovative teaching staff.
* Technically, Sylvia’s current title is Acting Principal in Charge, APIC.