Nearly twenty-five years ago George Weiss started the Say Yes to Education Program, offering to pay the college education of a group of 112 sixth graders that graduated from Belmont Elementary School in West Philadelphia.Back then Say Yes to Education "guaranteed a college education to all the youngsters... paid for every bit of it," if they graduated from high school.
Say Yes to Education is coming to Buffalo following the program model established in the Syracuse City School District.
Today the funds don't directly come from Mr. Weiss but from local foundations such as the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the John R. Oishei Foundation both had been working on the idea for the last four years. The way it works is that local students graduating from high school apply for college financial aid and Say Yes to Education fills in the gap for what is not covered.
The initiative in Buffalo has garner the commitment of a diverse group of stakeholders including Phil Rumore, President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, and from Mayor Byron W. Brown who has donated $500,000 seed money over a three-year period.
Say Yes requires cooperation and collaboration from the partners involved, including the consultants managing the program. These consultants help to review the budget how funds are allocated district wide to determine how effective it's being done while they pull all the stakeholders together to support the students.
In Syracuse consultants of Say Yes recommended cutting most of the teachers aides during budget problems which was not received well by the union though the collaboration has worked out well for them Kevin Ahern President of the Syracuse Teachers Association noted. And it's "not always happy talk at their regular meetings," he added.
And in the BCSD there are union contracts that still need to be settled,on-going teacher step litigation in federal court, while a superintendent search RFP process is still in progress with a permanent one possibly appointed next year. Still the State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr has yet to appoint a "distinguished" educator and the persistently lowest-achieving schools (PLA) in Buffalo frantically are involved in writing turnaround proposals due in central office by Wednesday, November 23rd.
Yet, Amber Dixon, interim Superintendent of Buffalo Schools is hopeful Say Yes will provide a blueprint for her own ideas of turning around the Buffalo failing schools.