After 18 years teaching at Carrick High School—in a Career and Technical Education program she helped develop—Cynthia Falls is showing no signs of slowing down her work as a public school champion. An Overbrook resident who previously worked as a geriatric nurse, Cynthia loves interacting with students and families from many different countries at Banksville, Beechview and Concord Elementary Schools. Originally from Brookline, Cynthia is an active member of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors.
Monday, April 17
This is my day to “chill” after my sister’s Easter Sunday dinner for 32 people. I’ll start the week the way I usually do: a cup of coffee and a phone call to our board secretary, Laura Getty, to verify upcoming meetings.
I’ll check my calendar throughout the day; some schools have me on their robo call lists to keep me up to date with classes and events.
Later I’ll see what’s playing at the movies. Love those recliner seats at Century III’s Century Square Luxury Cinemas!
Tuesday, April 18
At Carrick’s Parent School Community Council (PSCC) meeting this morning we’re recognizing students in Advanced Placement and Center for Advanced Studies classes. A few weeks ago, we commended 370 honor roll kids—almost half the student body. That makes me proud. I mentor a Carrick senior, Malik Williams, and I’ve asked the principal if I can give him his diploma when he graduates.
Later I’ll go to Concord Elementary to meet with 5th grade students. They will help me decide what to say at their “Promotion Day” June 12, when they advance to 6th grade. We’ll have a heart-to-heart about what’s important to them. This is a wonderfully diverse school, with more than 120 students from six different countries.
Tonight is the PSCC “Fun Night” meeting at Pittsburgh Phillips K-5 on the South Side. I love the way parents get involved; there is a real sense of community at this Spanish magnet school.
Wednesday, April 19
Then I’m off to the Carrick High School college fair. I never push students to choose college, but I’m happy when they do. For some kids, a technical school or two-year college is the answer, and some want to take a job for a year first, or join the military. My “adopted” son, Demetrius Titus, went into the Army infantry and the year he spent in Afghanistan was really hard for me. Ours is an unofficial mother-son relationship; his birth mother and I are good friends, and I’ll always be there for him and his daughter Nahla, who is 4.
Tonight, the board has personnel and agenda review meetings. I’ll scrutinize the agenda and ask lots of questions because, well, that’s my job.
Thursday, April 20
I’ve been looking forward to this day with mixed emotions: It is my first mammogram since my surgery to remove “ductal carcinoma in situ”—a fancy way of saying that I was lucky to have a non-invasive form of breast cancer.
I was diagnosed in November and have had two surgeries. My last radiation treatment was March 1, and I started follow-up medication this month. It’s stressful but I’m blessed to have a special team caring for me: my breast surgeon, Dr. Rae Budway, is a Brashear graduate; my oncology radiologist, Dr. Robert Werner, is an Allderdice graduate; and my radiation therapist, Nikki Ehrenberger Ober, is my former student at Carrick.
For lunch, I’m meeting a few other retired teachers at Mallorca on the South Side. We get together at least once a month—sometimes five of us, sometimes more.
Tonight I’m attending a school board candidates’ forum at the Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School in Larimer. With all the conversation about charter and public schools, I think we can amicably agree that we have different opinions—and I’d like to know what we do differently, if anything. I’m there to listen and discuss issues, since they are taxpayers, too.
Friday, April 21
Today’s PSCC meeting is at Pittsburgh Roosevelt in Carrick. Each school that gets Title I funding must hold a monthly PSCC meeting—sometimes we get a few parents, sometimes 100. I like to learn what each school is doing to encourage learning and involve families.
I’ll spend the rest of day with Nahla at Dave and Buster’s. So thankful that Demetrius and his wife, Tania, share their lives with me.
Saturday, April 22
It’s Earth Day and I’m helping students with a neighborhood clean-up project at Phillips Park in Carrick.
I’ll round up friends for dinner at Chili’s or Applebee’s—nothing fancy, just a relaxing, casual evening.
Sunday, April 23
I’m so excited that we open our family camp in Andover, Ohio, today. We’ll hit the road to after attending 10 a.m. mass at Saint Anne in Castle Shannon. We bought the park model near Pymatuning Lake in 1996, and we’ve added a sunroom and deck. It’s my escape when I get a couple free days—but trust me, I still answer emails and phone calls there.
See who else is NEXT Up here.
Have a suggestion for NEXT Up? Email us!