Superintendent James Williams and his staff unveiled the newest plans for the persistently lowest-achieving schools (PLA) in the Buffalo Public Schools at the Buffalo Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night. The problem with the plan they have proposed to the state is the lack of parental involvement and other stakeholders such as teachers, building administrators, unions and the community. The models specifically call for "parents and students to adhere to conditions" as oppose to "agree or collaborate" on the plans.
And the Buffalo News education blogger Mary Pasciak wrote today, this is the reason why the state may reject the plans submitted May 9th. Even after Deputy Education Commissioner, John King, Jr. passed through town last Thursday, suggested district officials lock themselves in a room with stakeholders until a plan is hashed out all can live with, district officials ignored his recommendation. He offered to come back and help out, still district officials did it their way, a strategy that may cause the state to reject the plans.
Plans for Bilingual Center #33 continue to emphasize a Transitional Bilingual Program similar to the one the district officials submitted to the School Board on at the April 13th meeting. Student enrollment at this school is nearly 500, composed of 285 Latinos (60%), 205 Limited English Proficient (44%), 121 whites (26%), and 60 blacks (13%) provides a unique opportunity to implement a dual language immersion program similar to the one for gifted & talented students at the Olmsted School #64.
The Olmsted 4th grade students immersed in the Spanish language since kindergarten traveled for one week this month to Puerto Rico, meeting pen pals, visiting Old San Juan, museums, the rain forest, and learning about the history and culture of Puerto Rico.
The plans for the Bilingual Center#33 instead of the turnaround model outlined on April 13th, the focus is a "restart" one with management provided by an Educational Partnership organization (EPO) in lieu of the Buffalo Schools superintendent.
Leaders in the Hispanic community earlier this week on Monday met with two Board Members to hear and to ask questions about what plans the district had for the PLA schools with large Hispanic student enrollments especially the English Language Learners that make up over 3,500 of the student population in the Buffalo Public Schools.
Mr. Casimiro Rodriguez one of the organizers of the meeting at Hispanics United of Buffalo (HUB) asked about the turnaround plans for the Bilingual Center #33, and why the popular Puerto Rican principal, Miguel Medina had to be removed.
Interestingly, International School #45 is under a transformation model while Lafayette High School is a turnaround model with a focus on "bilingual, Student Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE), ESL and District Newcomer Center, sounding more like a hodgepodge of a plan. And Riverside High School with a large Latino population is a under a transformation model with a focus on careers, nothing mentioned about any programs addressing the language needs of the students.
Also, the focus of the Waterfront School #45, a turnaround model is French and ESL though there are only 30 students in the district listed as speaking the language. So, the community is not sure why the emphasis is on French while the open classroom plan the school based in the past eliminated.
If any positive has happened in all the ruckus the changes have caused is that International School #45 finally has a new principal Nadia Nashir, a Middle Eastern administrator, the first in the Buffalo Schools, replacing Colleen Carota transferred to Build Academy though there had been some protest from the African-American community about her placement there.
Still, Puerto Rican and African-American leaders are troubled by the lack of ethnic diversity in school buildings and central office especially of Hispanic appointments.
School Board President, Ralph Hernandez mentioned at the meeting at HUB how the programs for the English Language Learners appeared to be inconsistently offered across the district. And this inconsistency shows up again in the new models the district unveiled to the School Board and community at the Wednesday night meeting whether the focus is turnaround, transformation or restart models
Also, Buffalo Teacher Federation Phil Rumore called the teachers to a rally downtown in front of City Hall before the School Board meeting to voice his concern about the involuntary transfer of 200 to 500 teachers in the PLA schools, teachers having to interview to keep their jobs, as well as, supporting the teachers in the following areas: Rumore's refusal to sign the district's SIG grant, Court of Appeals denial of teachers contractual steps after the wage freeze, stifling school curriculum, reinstatement of the residency rule, and the continuation of the district's violation of their contract. Mr. Rumore outlined these concerns to the School Board on Wednesday night, specifically the damage of the involutary tranfers of teachers to school buildings