Mamie Till Mobley

"There was an important mission for me, to shape so many...young minds as a teacher. God took away one child but...(gave) me thousands. And I have been grateful for the blessing." Mamie Till Mobley

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Buffalo School Board meeting SIG funds coming and new girls charter school opening in fall

Buffalo school board meeting tonight and there is lots on the agenda. Three interesting items:

  • Dr. Constance Moss, a retired Buffalo schools associate superintendent 2007, submitted an application to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute to open a charter school for girls fall 2013 with mission to improve graduation rates. The school is expected to open at the old Cantalician Center in the 3000 block of Main Street adjacent to the University of Buffalo, South Campus.
  • President Lou Petrucci asked  interim Super Amber Dixon for update on the SIG funds. She replied a 3rd MOU submitted to State Ed folks on Friday afternoon last week that BTF President Phil Rumore, BCSA President Crystal Barton and she signed. A telephone call from State Ed on Tuesday informed district officials several issues had to be resolved before approved and three issues discussed that were sent over to the BTF at 3PM.  Rumore met with executive committee meeting and a decision made not to bring it for vote before the teachers no time to share it. Interim Dixon in touch with deputy commissioners in Albany and Regent Bennett and Rumore. District requested and got a postponement for a hearing  from 1 to 5 PM, Wednesday in Albany. Though they got a letter of rejection from State Ed yesterday the revised document sent to Rumore for his review Dixon told it was "now approvable." Dixon commented they have an extra week to return the SIG funds to the district. Latest word is State Ed "was willing to make sure Buffalo received these funds." We received verbal approval of the document that is now in front of Mr. Rumore. This she told the board at about 5:50 PM tonight. 
  • Florence Johnson at Large requested copy of the presentation a few district officials saw at a Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) meeting Saturday. She wanted other administrators to see the process for staff development. She expressed concern about the evaluation process the funding involved and adding an assistant principal to help with the observations done several times based on 60% of the evaluation.

State Ed rejects Buffalo teacher evaluation plan

"Rumore was not able to answer a delegate's question about whether suspensions would be counted as absences, some teachers said. "A lot of delegates and a lot of teachers were very unhappy about how Phil Rumore handled the whole process," said Marc Bruno, a union representative at Riverside High School," in a Buffalo News story yesterday.

Suspensions can't be factored in as absences in any evaluation plans because it's impermissible in state education law.

Unfortunately, attendance teachers were not represented in  the Buffalo Teachers Federation delegate council meeting on Tuesday and at all meetings since September. 

The BTF leadership have not supported these teachers to organize themselves to elect a delegate chair.

And when an attendance teacher told BTF President Phil Rumore more could have been done to employ the laid off teachers in other job openings in the district instead of suffering for six-years after they were recalled in September 2011, Rumore responded by abruptly standing up from his chair at this meeting scheduled in his office on February 15, 2012.

When asked why he  ended the meeting, Rumore answered because "accusations were being made about the BTF."

One of the teachers upset with the behavior and reaction of the union president responded by telling Rumore if he is unable to listen to teachers concerns, he should consider retiring again look for another job.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Assem. Ortiz Previews Somos Spring Conference

Assem. Ortiz Previews Somos Spring Conference
After several unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers and others didn't donate to the annual Somos El Futuro conference held in Albany this weekend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo each donated $36,000 to make up for the shortage. Cuomo is appearing at the conference to pick up his "Visionary Leadership" award the group plans to give him, while Assembly member Felix Ortiz helped the governor when he voted for the infamous Tier VI legislation that continues to erode public pensions.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Obama and Republican governors agree on educational issues

"...Obama ...and  Republican governors have found common ground in a number of areas, including teacher evaluation systems with consequences, merit pay for teachers, holding teachers and schools more accountable for how much students learn, and charter schools, which are public schools run by an independent third party."

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Interim Super Dixon presented new attendance plan to union

Buffalo News blogger Mary Pasciak wrote today about the latest teacher evaluation plan that factors in student attendance district officials introduced to the Buffalo Teachers Federation on Friday.

Dixon,  "verbally outlined a fairly complex plan; it boils down to student attendance being measured on a schoolwide basis, and the dividing line is 85 percent average daily attendance.

In other words, schools where 85 percent or more students show up, on average, would have one growth target, while schools that fall below 85 percent average daily attendance would have a lower target."

Few elementary schools have an ADA below 85%, but all of the academic non criterion high schools except for Mckinley have ADA rates below 85%. Lafayette High School has the highest ADA  fluctuating from 83 to 85% this year.

The attendance office at Lafayette is open only three days a week because, the school does not have a full time attendance officer and the one assigned to the school is shared two days weekly with an elementary school.

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Say Yes and Cascade question low community participation in forums and surveys...

Cascade consultant and Say Yes  president disappointed with low community response to forums and surveys in the superintendent search process.

Yet some say the forums were prepared hastily and the surveys too long , while the superintendent one not relevant.

And questions of a conflict of interest about Cascade and Say Yes conducting the search for a superintendent, while negotiating a "non-negotiable" contract for themselves with the district to operate their after-school programs continues to linger in the community. Also, others have questioned the superintendent search process as superficial because the community has been kept out the candidate selection phase . Cascade informed the reason is confidentiality.

"Our participation at community forums has been less than we're comfortable with," Gene Chasin, chief operating officer of Say Yes, told the School Board. "Survey results have been lower than we're used to. We need to look at the reasons for this.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

What a difference the drop in attendance in Buffalo schools from 2005 to 2006, after district laid-off the attendance officers!

    They blame the low attendance rates in the Buffalo schools to the attendance policy Williams scraped, but few relate it to the lay off of the district attendance officers in 2005. Buffalo News blogger, Mary Pasciak cited today a story appearing in the News in 2006 after former superintendent James had abolished the old attendance policy. Yet without attendance officers how could it have been enforced? So, what did he do? Williams abolished both the attendance policy and the attendance officers. That's the root of this current attendance problem in the district, but there's still the issue of back pay for the wrongfully laid off attendance teachers. So, it has become the elephants in the room. "The problem is hardly confined to Lafayette. For the attendance period that ended March 31, 12 of 13 city high schools had lower attendance rates than they did during the corresponding period last school year.     In many cases, the drop was severe. Riverside's rate fell from 78.5 to 67 percent; Seneca's from 82.2 to 74.5 percent; East's from 81 to 77.3 percent; and Lafayette's from 83.8 to 78.6 percent. School officials say attendance rates of less than 90 percent are unacceptable. "    

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Cascade ask Buffalo school board for more time extend superintendent search

Because of the timeframe we're in, we're thinking we would like to extend the period of time. We initially talked about April 6. But I think we want to continue that. We never published that, just said it would be open to fill.

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Cascade say surveys show nobody happy with conditions in Buffalo schools today

It is fair to say, based on the surveys you will see and focus groups, nobody is happy with the conditions of the schools today. Board members are not happy. Teachers are not happy. Union people are not happy. Leadership in the community is not happy.

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Cascade says few in community filled out superintendent search survey

Pasquarella: The thing that surprised me is not the focus groups, but the surveys, that there were few people. I've said this before. It is really not the number so much as why. Why is it the number? When you look at the surveys, one of the things you'll see is that they don't think we'll make a difference.

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Cascade sharing focus group information on superintendent search Monday

Mary Pasciak:  Chasin: You'll see every comment that was made in a focus group. McCarthy: When will we see that? Taylor: On Monday, that information will be provided for us.

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School board member John Licata troubled lack of community participation in search process for new superintendent

Mary Pasciak:  Licata: Thank you for your efforts to try to get community involvement. I'm a little dismayed that it's an underwhelming participation from the community who was saying they wanted to play a role in this.

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Cascade looking at data driven superintendent

The new superintendent has to be someone experienced with data-driven decision-making. Once we get applications, we'll screen them for minimum qualifications. We'll bring those back to the board, board will discuss it. Board will choose semifinal candidates, people you want more information about.

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Buffalo schools update superintendent search

Gene Chasin from Say Yes: Ads have been placed and run in all the major publications. The recruitment process has begun. We have been conducting focus groups and meetings across the district. 51 meetings, over 300 people. Also have conducted paper and pencil and online surveys. Our participation at community forums has been less than we're comfortable with. Survey results have been lower than we're used to. We need to look at the reasons for this.

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Targets in attendance on teacher evaluation plan under consideration

SED is willing to look at an evaluation plan that builds in different targets based on student attendance. We're pursuing that, putting together a proposal to take to Mr. Rumore and BTF.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

mandate attendance teachers into teacher contract comment on Buffalo news live blog at education meeting last night

Comment From 1st grade teacher  I have no problem taking out the attendance clause in our contract IF we can add something else into the contract. Like it is MANDATORY that all schools have attendance teachers on staff. Or it is mandatory that students miss less than 28 days to be promoted. If we work those other safeguards into a contract, we can take the attendance clause out and problem solved. The only hitch is the district needs to sitdown and negotiate a real contract with teachers. We haven't done that since before Y2K. This issue is not hopeless. It just requires REAL work, not platitudes. We prob wont get it in time for this year, but with a little elbow grease we could do it before next year.

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Demone Smith Buffalo common council on truancy officers

Mary Pasciak:  Smith: "Attendance teachers were brought back, but there were no truancy officers. Maybe that's the piece we're missing. We're talking about some of the worst schools in the nation, dropout factories. If we don't do anything, they're going to continue to get worse."

Attendance teachers are truancy officers, attendance officers and attendance teachers used interchangeably in NYS education law section 3213.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Attendance teachers needed as mid-year cuts possible in Buffalo schools

After  the Buffalo Teachers Federation  council of delegates voted to keep the attendance provision in the new teacher evaluation system (APPR) Wednesday night, interim Superintendent of  Buffalo Schools Amber Dixon asked the director of human resources to give her a list of the positions  that she will have to cut in  mid-year as a result of the action of the BTF.
It is expected that 60  teachers or more will be laid-off that work already in the persistently lowest achieving schools because the state education department now will not release the $9. 3 million dollars expected to continue funding the positions.
The majority of teachers that voted on Wednesday night did not work in the PLA schools, causing some to say the voting was not fair to the teachers who work at these schools now facing mid-year cuts.
Yet, lay-offs are done through seniority in the tenure area so if there are any teachers laid offs in mid year most likely it will ricochet throughout the district not necessarily in the PLA schools.
The Buffalo News published an email from a teacher  in the BTF who did not agree with the voting process.
Also absent at the delegates meeting was the attendance teachers recalled in September this year. There were several attempts to  inquire about organizing them but vice president Edith Lewin, a retired teacher, a presidential assistant to BTF President Phil Rumore, suggested the teachers try a committee select a chairperson to attend the council of delegate meetings but would have no voting power. This after  the union dues deducted from the attendance teachers paycheck are nearly $10,000 yearly to the BTF not to mention all the hullabaloo from the union about attendance.
Also, chronically absent student is defined as absent 10 percent of the school year not 20 percent as the BTF cited to support its provision on the teacher evaluation.
What the BTF could have done is provided the teachers alternatives to the provision such as ensuring that each Buffalo school building is adequately staff with attendance officers at least one for every two elementary schools in the district and one full-time in the academic high school including attendance intervention in the criterion schools that also have incurred an absenteeism problem after the district laid-off the attendance teachers six years ago though it's not as noticeable in the average daily attendance (ADA) of these schools.
Now is the time for the BTF to ensure the school board establishes a  new state-of-the-art alternative school to address the problem of student discipline, suspensions and severely absent students.
And if you ask Rumore to include the addition of attendance teachers in the contract during negotiations especially now that teachers are evaluated on the achievement of students on assessments and standardized tests scores, he has repeatedly answered he can not do it.  Why?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

School attendance in Buffalo schools headline news again

A battle has resurfaced in the Buffalo pubic schools that has embroiled many in the district, union and community, including the state education folks holding up promised grant moneys if the district and the unions fail to comply with submitting an acceptable teacher evaluation plan. But the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) attached a provision that  test scores of students absent 20 percent of the school  should not count in the evaluation.
Yet, the elephant  in the room are the attendance teachers that neither the district or the union want to talk about especially what happened to these teachers that has caused the high absenteeism in the Buffalo Schools today.
After school board laid-off the attendance teachers from the buffalo schools six years ago in 2005, during the dispute over the single health carrier insurance in a court battle that lasted nearly three years, the attendance of Buffalo school children suffered.
Instead of reinstating the attendance teachers lawyers for the district successfully argued before the Appellate Court in 2008, it should vacate the part recalling the laid-off teachers after Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) prevailed in the single health carrier dispute.
So six years later after the arbitrator ruling in 2006, that the laid-off teachers should be reinstated with back pay plus interest, the Appellate Court vacated it.
Hence, the reason for the district wide educational neglect of Buffalo school children over the six-year period from 2005-2011, as the result of this dispute.
While the attendance of Buffalo school students continue to decline and worsen, the former superintendent James Williams still balked at reinstating the laid-off attendance teachers.  When the School Board voted to allocate $500,000 to recall the attendance teachers in 2011, Williams attempted to link it with the BTF dropping its grievance involving back pay for the laid off teachers, while the BTF called it an improper practice.
Also, it had become a personal issue for Williams called the attendance teachers "band aids on cancer" in an interview in the Challenger, the local African-American press.
And reports in 2010 such as the Joint Intervention Team surfaced indicating the attendance of Buffalo school students especially in the high schools continued to be a problem effecting the academic achievement, drop out and graduation rates.
In an effort to assuage the problem, the district hired a consultant Hedy Chang to investigate the high absenteeism in the Buffalo schools in 2010 and what she found was alarming especially after she disaggregated the district average daily attendance (ADA) data. It revealed the chronically and severely absent students worse than expected.
So the job of the attendance teacher was rewritten as though it alone would fix the problem, while three attendance teachers were recalled as part of the feds Race to the Top state improvement grant.
And six other attendance teachers were recalled and two newly hired as the result of the Buffalo Board of Education wrestling with former embattled superintendent James Williams to allocate $500,000 that he continue obstructing until the issue forced him to retire early and the demise of his top associates.
In 2012, the high absenteeism of Buffalo students is back on the media limelight because of a controversial provision Phil Rumore, President of then BTF attached to the teacher evaluation system that would not count students absent 20% of the school year.
The state threatened to hold up $9.3 million of SIG moneys, while both the school board passed a resolution asking Rumore to delete the provision, and the District Parent Coordinating Committee (DPCC) Voted similarly but added a threat to encourage parents to pull their children out from the persistently low achieving schools in September. Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon appealed to the teachers union through an open letter.
What must be done is the district should reestablish the attendance department it abolished in 2003, hire a director elevate it as part of the superintendent's cabinet along with full time attendance teachers in the high schools and one full time attendance teacher for every two elementary schools in the district until the problem is remedied and attendance stabilized again, including developing the infrastructure both in Central Office and the school buildings to support the attendance initiatives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Buffalo superintendent search on a fast track...questions of transparency still a concern

Say Yes to Education or Cascade, the consults hired to search for a superintendent for the Buffalo schools are busy. Besides the search, they also have hired consultants to study the district finances and curriculum. Tonight, at the Bennett High School forum, president of Say Yes Gene Chasin reported they have conducted 40 meetings in the district and next week prepared to present their information to the Buffalo Board of Education to help them develop a criteria to select a superintendent. Cascade scheduled four forums to hear from community members not involved in the focus groups the school board had previously chosen. The search is on a fast track expected that by March 14, the information gathered they present it to the board. And the resumes and candidates before the board by mid-May in what Chasin described as an aggressive schedule. Still, the process has been questioned in the community because it's not as transparent as many would like for it to be as the candidate selection and interviews are viewed as too secretive, a closed process. The excuse is they have to protect the confidentiality of the candidates some employed. And questions continue about the conflict of interest of Say Yes cloaked as Cascade Consultants too involved in the superintendent search, while seeking a "non-negotiable" contract to provide after school programs to the district that involves accessing the Title 1 funds.

Whitney Tilson (3rd background)

Whitney Tilson (3rd background)
"Let’s be honest: we need a lot more well-off, well-educated white folks with a personal stake in both charter schools and education reform in general if we’re going to take reform to the next level, both politically and operationally.Whitney Tilson, hedge fund manager and major funding angel for the school privatizing Democrats for Education Reform, thinks there’s not enough rich, educated white folks.( Preaprez) click photo to his blog.

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education, click photo