Buffalo school officials presented plans Monday night for a $10 million-plus expansion of the Buffalo Vocational Technical Center, to be the maiden project in a nearly $1 billion upgrade of the city's schools.
About 130 residents listened patiently to the hourlong PowerPoint presentation, then peppered the speakers with past grievances about the city's neglect of the school on Northampton Street.
An officer of the Community Voice Organization demanded to know why its list of questions about the school had not been addressed.
The answer was that no one had given the list of questions to officials making the presentation at the school, formerly East High School. The Buffalo Vocational Training Center's new name will be East Technical High School of Excellence.
Attending the public meeting were top school administrators, members of the School Board, members of the Buffalo Teachers Federation and Christine Brooks of the state Education Department. The state has mandated that all vocational schools integrate academic subjects into their curriculums, prompting plans for this building to become a comprehensive high school again with its own students and principal.
The building is currently used for vocational classes for students enrolled in other schools. Teachers have complained that when these students return after classes to their home schools, they miss a period of academic instruction and often become a distraction.
Residents were clearly unimpressed with the presentation, which in addition to the building's renovation included:
College course work agreements.
Business and industry internships.
Adult continuing education courses.
Expansion of enrollment from the present 265 students to 768 or more.
One major stumbling block is the plan to close the building for one year, starting in the summer of 2002, to complete the renovations. Residents also reacted against the plan to return only some of the vocational programs when the doors open in the fall of 2003, while also adding some new programs.
Officials haven't decided which programs will end up where.
Willis Porter, a 1970 graduate of the school and mother of a current student, urged officials to keep the doors open and add academic programs without removing any vocational courses.
Ausar Afrika, parliamentarian for the Community Voice Organization, angrily accused officials of insulting residents by giving a "lecture" on the project instead of addressing their longtime questions. He said he had correctly predicted last year that the district would let enrollment drop in the school and then use that as an excuse for closing the school and removing some programs permanently.
"The guy's right," BTF President Philip B. Rumore said later. "He told them this a year ago. They scared people away by saying they were going to close the school, and they cut programs, and now there's no trust left. The community is mobilizing. They're just furious."