In This Issue:

September 2015

from David W. James

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Message from David W. James David James Color 2013     
Dear APS Friends:

Quietly, and for the better part of the last decade, our community and several of our schools have been undergoing significant change. Little did any of us know a U.S. foreign policy decision made nine years ago would bring into our city and our schools a story that is truly inspirational in an American way. And now, much of America is aware.

After then-President George Bush authorized the acceptance of Himalayan refugees into the U.S., Akron began to receive dozens, then hundreds and then thousands, of refugees from the tiny kingdom of Bhutan and surrounding refugee camps. Iraqi refugees also began arriving in our city. They settled, mostly, in North Akron. The reason? -- the International Institute. A valuable community partner of APS, the International Institute has helped new arrivals here in immeasurable ways. Because of the institute's location in North Hill, it has been the magnet that has enlarged the melting pot and has made North High School the most diverse school in Ohio.

The challenges are many for Akron Public Schools in keeping up with the demands of so many ESL (English as a Second Language) students. In fact, we are scrambling daily to locate more and more teachers who can help us with this mission to provide an enriching experience and a strong education for young people who are eager to learn, hungry for knowledge and grateful for the experience. We are seeing some wonderful stories as a byproduct. Listen to this account from National Public Radio's Morning Edition last week, brought to us by local station WKSU:

Have you ever known someone who consistently does more than he or she is asked to do? I have a friend who calls those folks "military employees." "Give them five tasks," he says, "and they do nine." We have many people like that here at Akron Public Schools. One great example is Tommy Bruno and his folks at 91.3 The Summit (WAPS FM). You may not realize, but that radio station is an operation of Akron Public Schools. The folks at 91.3 are to be congratulated for winning a Pinnacle Award in our community. The Pinnacle Awards of Summit County are bestowed for significant contributions to the greater good and for practicing social responsibility. In other words, they're not just running a radio station in a vacuum. Tommy and his team recognize the importance of reaching into the community, at large, and doing other good works. Our thanks to United Way and Inside Business publications for recognizing that. Oh, and this recognition comes on the heels of the statewide "2015 Ohio Recovery Advocacy Award" for exemplary contributions in supporting long-term recovery for all Ohioans.

While I'm congratulating people, let me personally thank Erica Kraus. When vandals struck the recently improved playground at Essex Elementary School, members of the community joined youths who originally started the project to put the finishing touches on it.

According to Firestone High School graduate Erica Kraus, who spearheaded the effort, nearly 50 people stopped by to work or donate to repair damage and finish the playground improvements Aug. 23. "I would like to thank all the people who have supported the Essex Project this past month," Erica said in an email to supporters. "What was once a five-day project turned into so much more, and a dozen volunteers turned into upwards of 50." Among the volunteers were Essex teacher Kelly Krebs, Essex educational assistant April Yonally, Early Learning Program teacher/district representative Janet Willse, Akron Public Schools (APS) Board of Education member Patrick Bravo, Akron City Councilwoman Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8), FHS Project Lead The Way teacher Dan Spak, Master Gardener Amy Grom, employees of Home Depot in Copley, students and Essex neighborhood residents.

Kraus said more than $2,500 was raised for the project. "Where we didn't expect to have funds to buy paint, we now have excess to use for maintaining the garden and playground," she said. Kraus added that $500 was raised for the band after its trailer parked at the school had been damaged and broken into sometime between Aug. 15 and 16. Akron Police also said plants were ripped out, and black paint was poured over some of the playground's benches at the same time.

Finally, look who we stumbled upon while starting our school day at Betty Jane CLC. A WKYC TV (3) news crew was doing a story on school zone safety and decided to invite a group of curious students to take a tour of their live truck and have a quick lesson in television news production. Our sincere thanks to Tim Coffey and reporter Tiffany Tarpley for their generosity that morning. It was like having a field trip to the TV station without leaving Betty Jane. Check out our link:

That's it for now. I'll be back in another month or so.

New James Signature
David W. James
Akron Public schools