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Tyer Meets With Herberg's Future Leaders
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
11:00AM / Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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The Herberg Leaders after-school program spent time with Mayor Linda Tyer on Monday afternoon.


The students asked Mayor Linda Tyer to visit the program to discuss leadership.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — How do you handle negativity? That's what seventh-grader Ella asked Mayor Linda Tyer on Monday afternoon.
 
The mayor responded:
 
"I make a choice -- and this is important for leadership -- to approach my work with an attitude of optimism. If I felt negative about everything, I would just be stuck. I wouldn't be able to think clearly or view my city with a positive lens.
 
"What I think is that people in our city work really hard, everyone does their very best, you come to school or parents go to work, so it is my job to work just as hard and to do it with an attitude of cheerfulness.
 
"Negativity is to be expected but how you respond to it is within your power, your control."
 
Ella is learning how to become a leader. She is part of the Herberg Middle School's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, taking a number of workshop classes after school. Monday's session was a culmination of work done by the Herberg Leaders, who spent a month learning, researching, and discussing what it takes to be a leader.
 
"We started out discussing what makes an effective leader, characteristics, traits, who they have as leaders in their lives. We would discuss each week what leadership traits they saw each week exhibited the previous week, how they were leaders the previous week," said Beth Trainor, who heads the Herberg Leaders classes.
 
Trainor said in recent weeks the group did research into famous leaders of the past and then transitioned into local leadership. The students researched local leaders and decided they'd ask Tyer to join them for a chat about what is it like to be a community leader.
 
"They choose Mayor Tyer as they person they would like to invite in to talk about her leadership role. We sat around my computer one day and created a letter, signed it, and I took it up to the mayor's office," Trainor said, and the mayor took the class up on the invitation. "They've been so excited about this."
 
The students had a number of prepared questions for the mayor. It started off with who the mayor looks to as a leader.
 
"I have a lot of leaders and role models, people I look up to. It has been a part of my career. The whole time I've been working, I've always looked for people who could help me be better at the work I am doing," Tyer said.
 
Other leaders Tyer looks up to include former Gov. Deval Patrick, former Mayor James Ruberto, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
 
John followed up asking Tyer what she feels were the most important decisions she has made. Tyer cited decisions at each level of government she worked: city council, city clerk, and mayor.
 
She said she is proud of the votes she took in investing in the city's downtown -- specifically the Colonial Theatre -- that took place before the students had even been born.
 
"There was a time when it did not look like that, when it was a run-down shuttered old theater. I was also really happy to support funding for the Beacon Cinema and also Barrington Stage. Some of the proudest work I did as a member of the City Council was to make investments on North Street so you and your family can go down and see a movie or go to the museum or have lunch at Patrick's, go shopping," Tyer said.
 
As clerk, she cited the work of making sure everybody had fair access to voting. And as mayor, she feels the most important decision was to support the Police Department.
 
"We've made some really important decisions around our Police Department. We have more police officers right now. We have new technology in our city. We have also some very interesting ways of making sure our city is safe in all of our neighborhoods. The work of that is important," Tyer said. 
 
"One of the other things that we never had before that is really working out well for us is what's called a pavement management plan -- making sure that we know exactly what streets we are going to pave every year."
 
When asked about her everyday work, she detailed the management aspects of the job from making sure city workers have the tools they need to do their jobs the best to make sure there is enough sand and salt available to keep the roads safe in the winter.
 
"Every single day I come into work and say 'I'm going to do these five things' and, for sure, within a half hour, I am doing five other things that I didn't expect. That's what makes the job fun, interesting, challenging, and demanding. Every day is something different to be thinking about and making decisions about," Tyer said.
 
The mayor also serves on the School Committee and in response to a question regarding a recent uptick in bad behavior in city schools, she said she worries a lot about what happens in schools.
 
"I am extremely proud of what the Pittsfield Public Schools represents to our city and state. I know how hard all of you work. I know your teachers care so much about learning and social skills and making sure you are given the best opportunity to achieve your potential," Tyer said. 
 
"Sometimes I do worry about what happens in our schools especially when it comes to students who struggle and don't have some of the abundances that we have - kids who come to school hungry or tired or their parents aren't at home and they come to school and they are not quite ready to learn. I worry about those kids. I worry about kids who aren't as kind as I know you all are because when you are learning about leadership, kindness is one of the most important character traits. When I hear about kids being mistreated by other kids, that really troubles me."
 
Dylan asked the mayor about her role in community functions. Tyer said it is important for the mayor to share in the happy times and the sad times in the city. She said she regularly attends meetings like Monday's with the students, the tree lighting, fundraisers, the Fourth of July parade, neighborhood meetings, and graduations.
 
"All of those things that celebrate community life is part of the job of being mayor and it is one of the great joys of being mayor, being able to celebrate all of the community successes," Tyer said. 
 
"But also to be there when things aren't going well and sometimes that happens. Sometimes I have to go to a funeral of a police officer, for example. Being there to share in the sadness of that loss is an important part of being mayor."
 
But does she like having the job?
 
"I really do like it. It is an honor and a privilege when the people of your city have entrusted you to be their mayor because so many important decisions happen in the mayor's office, happen in city government. When I think about it, it is really an honor to be mayor and I do enjoy it," Tyer said.
 
Tyer said he favorite parts of the job are having good debates about the issues facing the city and being able to think about the future of the city. In fact, she likes the job so much that when she was asked by the students if she is planning to run for re-election, the answer was a quick yes.
 

The students had prepared a number of questions.
"This will be an opportunity for me to talk to the people of our city about what we promised, what we accomplished, and where we are going next," Tyer said. 
 
But when the day comes when she is not the mayor, Tyer said she's got plenty of things she's too busy to do now to catch up on. 
 
"I'm going to read all of the books I have stacked up on my desk. I love to read and I don't have a lot of time to read. I'm going to read books. I'm going to practice yoga. I'm going to volunteer in my community, continue to contribute to community life. Those are some of the things I'd like to do when I am no longer serving as mayor," Tyer said when asked what she plans to do after leaving office.
 
The leadership program is one of 10 currently offered at Herberg through the 21st Century grant. 21st Century Site Coordinator Mallory D'Aniello said every semester the slate of offerings is changed and students can participate in the afterschool programs at no cost.
 
"Herberg is an exemplary program. We have about 10 enrichment programs we run throughout the week and right now we serve about 68 students," she said.
 
D'Aniello said the school is in the second year of a three year grant to provide the programs. Every day from Monday through Thursday there are three different courses students can choose from and the program gets significant support from community partners such as the Berkshire Theater Group or Berkshire Aubudon.
 
"We typically have a waiting list. We can only serve so many kids. I'd love to be able to get 90 of them but being able to have small groups makes more of an impact than if I had an overflowing classroom," she said.
 
Similar programs are held at Reid, Conte, Morningside, Crosby, and Pittsfield High School. The programs particularly help students and teachers have a better relationship and provide opportunities that many students wouldn't get otherwise.
 
"It is all about building relationships with the students and different staff members. We may have an eighth-grade math teacher who works with just her eighth-grade kids all day working with a sixth-grader," D'Aniello said.
 
Trainor said she loves the program because the students involved truly want to be there.
 
"I can't wait to get to these guys. I love my other kids but just to be with these guys and seeing them want to be here, and they do, they want to be here," she said.
 
And maybe there is a future mayor at the middle school.
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