"At a community meeting held at Hispanics United of Buffalo (HUB) on Virginia Street, many said they're fed up with the failing grades schools are receiving, especially where English Language Learners make up a high percentage of the student population." And many of the schools are on the list of the "persistently lowest-achieving" schools in the district recently in news especially the ones under turnaround plans such as the Bilingual Center #33 on Elk Street.
“A lot has been said in the last several weeks regarding the current crisis in the Buffalo Public School system, and nothing is being said about the population of English language learners, [who] account for 3,500 students, pretty much 10 percent of the school [district] population..." said Casimiro Rodriguez an organizer of the meeting.
Mr. Rodriguez wants more improvement from what he believes are "lots" of state and federal grants coming into the district for English Language Learners who have a graduation rate of 21% in the Buffalo Public Schools in comparison with 55% for this population in New York State public schools.
Dr. Eleanor Paterson, from Erie Community College believes the bottom line is these students are not getting the language skills they need to progress, causing them to fall further behind frustrated because they are unable to catch up. While Carmen Melendez, an employment counselor, a board member of HUB said how she sees the same issues over and over and wonders if it would help to have more Latino representation on the school board.
Mr. Rodriguez brought up the problem at the Bilingual Center #33 asked the only two board members who attended the meeting, School Board President Ralph Hernandez, West District and Christopher Jacobs, at-large about the recent changes at the school especially replacing the first Puerto Rican principal Miguel Medina. Others cited the Council on Great City Schools study about "the Academic Achievement of English Language Learners in the Buffalo Public Schools" presented to the school board last year. The report cited principals at schools with English Language Learners didn't know about the programs to provide the direction needed and the community superintendents overseeing these programs didn't have the knowledge to guide them. While others spoke about the importance of the Buffalo Public Schools having bilingual and diverse school leaders.
The meeting was a major press blitz , drawing WIVB-TV 4, WBEN Radio, WKBW--News 7, the Buffalo News, YNN and the Insurgent Teacher blog.