August 8, 2023
On July 25, 2023, I visited Native American Magnet #19. Built in 1899, this building might be the oldest existing Buffalo Public School, older than Lafayette High School. It is no surprise considering that among the big city school districts in New York State, Buffalo has the highest average age of school buildings.
Principal Michael Suwala gave me a tour, along with Associate Superintendent of School Leadership, Rafael Perez. Principal Suwala has been principal at Native American Magnet for just a few years and it was immediately clear that he is connected to this school and its community, indicating that he lives within walking distance of the building. The Native American Magnet enrolls about 350 pre-k to 8 students during the school year, about 40% of which are English Language Learners. Despite its name, less than 10% of students are Native American. However, the presence of Native American history and culture are felt in the building. The district's Native American Resource Program is housed in the building. I met and spoke with two Native American Resource Specialists, who provide regular instruction in Native American Magnet and throughout other district schools. They both spoke about the importance of also assisting Native American students and families with social-emotional needs.
For the summer, Native American Magnet is housing a pre-k to 6 program for several schools. Visiting classrooms, I saw energetic staff and high engagement from students. Principal Suwala spoke highly of his staff, who go above and beyond to meet the needs of his students and families. Principal emphasized relationships and systems, the latter of which was evident in clearly accessible visitor policy, when I arrived.
Principal Suwala spoke about the building getting some needed renovation, including antique Native American paintings on hallway walls and this courtyard area in the center of the building, which will soon be renovated with an updated playground. It is a space that is easily accessible from the cafeteria (small adjoining structure with slanted roof in photo below) for students to utilize during lunch, as well as recess.
Visiting this building was noteworthy, given its age and it's heavy focus on Native American history and culture. Similar to the Bilingual Center, which I visited earlier in the summer, it is a school our community needs to hear more about!
Vice President of Student Achievement
Buffalo Board of Education