Buder Elementary: Another Bright Spot within the St. Louis Public Schools
Buder School is a pre-kindergarten to 5th grade school within the St. Louis Public School system.
It is located at Lansdowne and Macklind Avenues in the burgeoning South Hampton (SoHa) neighborhood of St. Louis.
There is a lot to like in this section of the city. Macklind Avenue south of Chippewa Street has added locally owned restaurants, bars, independent retail, pharmacy, market, etc in the last ten years. The neighborhood is walkable and well cared for; typical South City living at its best.
Buder School has been part of this community since the building’s completion in 1920 and opening in 1921.
The neighborhoods of North Hampton and Southampton are served by this beautiful school designed by renowned architect Rockwell Milligan and named after one of St. Louis’ greatest philanthropists Susan Buder.
The school adds to the brick and stone classics that make this city famous. The building and grounds are no less than stunning and the exterior and interior still have nods to the Buder family. In fact, each member of the first graduating class of Buder School was awarded a scholarship to Washington University in the nearby suburb of University City through a donation by Mrs. Buder’s sons. The foundation still exists and the current students and teachers of Buder were recently the benefactors of iPads donated by the Buder family.
But you can only tell so much from a building. A visit was in order to learn what makes the school one of the city’s most successful, gaining full “accreditation with distinction” by the state of Missouri, we sat down with Michelle Flores, principal of Buder School.
We were buzzed in, and escorted to the principal’s office. First impressions are important for parents of young children. You want to know your child is safe, cared for, respected as an individual and in a happy, peaceful environment. Buder certainly meets that criteria. It's a 94 year old building, with the original stained glass, glazed brick, marble staircases, wood furniture, doors, and transoms, but it is also welcoming and brightly lit.
The decor in the hallways and classrooms is cheery and creative with nods to everything ranging from classic children’s books, the St. Louis Cardinals, and flags from around the world.
We were greeted by Mrs. Flores, the new principal of Buder since July 2014. Flores is from the Chicago area where she was a principal of a North Chicago suburban school. Flores is bilingual and her Spanish is an asset to the nearly 6% of the Latino students and families at Buder.
While running the school for a short time, many changes have been implemented during her brief tenure including enhancing that first impression and the warmness of the school that is centered around peace, love and respect. These cultural changes were among the first projects that she undertook.
The staff was engaged in the principal’s plan to encourage safety and respect. They are fostering a buddy system, where teaching behaviors are focused on a peaceful, learning environment. Flores believes in a 4:1 positive:negative approach. The kids are built up throughout the day. The changes are noticeable. A walk through the hallways and classrooms was characterized by quiet children and adults. Some classrooms had low volume music playing as the kids were drawing, writing, and reading.
The hallways were bright and clean, as were the classrooms that were equipped with Smart Boards. Contact information and teacher awards graced several classrooms.
Flores spoke of some things she did immediately when she came to the school. An example is her office. The front door was closed and a hallway was blocked in by filing cabinets placed there by the previous administrations. She had the cabinets moved, exposing the original wood and hand-poured leaded glass around the large hand carved wood doors ... and the doors are open and her desk is placed in a welcoming position right in the middle of the office.
Flores explained the efforts underway to encourage parental involvement outside of school hours, including participation in Girls On The Run, and a first annual Trunk-Or-Treat. Intramural sports have been established from the hours of 3:00-4:00 p.m. by the P.E. teacher to encourage healthy activities and play among the classmates. She is working with a group to get the gardens out front rejuvenated and plans on adding gardening as part of the curriculum.
Flores’ number one goal is pressing to keep the school in the “accredited with distinction” category, the state’s highest ranking for > 90% of students achieving MAP and attendance goals established by the state. The teachers and staff are focused on this result and keeping Buder at the highest level. Parental involvement is being stressed.
Flores is a believer in breaking up the day to encourage learning through hands-on approaches. The teachers are using “breakout groups” to allow the students to team up and learn together. This helps teachers observe the kids in action, break up the lecturing and better pinpoint the deficiencies and build on the strengths of the classes. Flores holds weekly meetings with the teachers to set game plans and revisit what is working well and where the greatest needs exist.
The energy level and positivity from Flores is impressive, and it will be great to hear more from this successful neighborhood school.
More about Buder:
- It is a neighborhood school, meaning it is free to citizens within the school boundary. Bus service exists, but children are encouraged to walk. To sign up for enrollment, or come in for a visit, you simply call the school and set up an appointment to see it or fill out the enrollment packet.
- Pull-out enrichment courses are offered to highly performing students. A gifted instructor comes to the school once a week to work with the children.
- Long Middle School on Morgan Ford Road near Delor Street in the Bevo Mill Neighborhood is the feeder for Buder.
- The recently passed Proposition S has benefitted Buder with bathroom upgrades, new windows, two relatively new playgrounds and an elevator installation. The school has central HVAC.
- Every room is in use at Buder, there are no vacant rooms.
- Buder’s student body is diverse with approximately 61% white, 31% black, 6% Hispanic/Latino, 2% Asian, etc. PTO is being re-invigorated, planning family game and movie nights, etc. A president, VP and treasurer have been elected and fundraising is underway. The community is coming back!
- The kids do routine field trips including walks to the local fire department and post office. Eagle watching on the Chain of Rocks Bridge are examples of recent excursions.
- There is a popular competitive dance team made possible by a grant from “Dancing Classrooms”