It appears likely the State Education Department will kick back the Buffalo school district’s plan to transfer roughly 2,200 students from struggling city schools into schools in good standing with the state.
Parent leader Samuel Radford III said he spoke to state education officials, who agree that city parents deserve input into the plan.
“We have reason to believe, based on our contact with the State Education Department, that the State Education Department will include parents in the development of the plan,” he said.
If the state asks the district for further revisions to the district’s “Public School Choice Corrective Action Plan,” it would be the third time the state has sought revisions to the district document.
The state first rejected the plan as too vague in May. Then on Saturday, Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Slentz sent a letter to Superintendent Pamela Brown indicating six areas in the revised plan that, if not addressed, would result in “no possibility” for state approval.
The school board approved a third draft Monday in a 6-3 vote.
Several parents denounced the plan from their seats during the board’s special meeting on Monday, prompting board President Barbara Nevergold to call a five-minute recess.
Parents complained the plan does not go far enough to address deep-rooted inequities in the district, which they say result in students with the highest needs being concentrated in the worst-performing schools.
They also criticized the district for not working sooner on a plan to address parent transfer requests when it became clear a year ago the district had too few seats in higher performing schools to accommodate all requests.
Tuesday night, the District Parent Coordinating Council voted unanimously to ask State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. to reject the district’s school choice plan, citing school equity concerns and the lack of parent involvement.
Will Keresztes, the district’s chief of student support services, acknowledged Monday that, in preparing the latest revised plan, the district worked with state officials but not with other stakeholders.
“The state very clearly established the benchmarks for what needed to be in the plan,” he said. “Very little of it was up for debate.”
Still, for every goal listed in the plan, there is a place for parents to be involved in decision making, he said.
“The meaningful parental engagement is coming up,” Keresztes said.
Radford, the parent group’s president, said parents deserve to be on the ground floor of the planning process. He said he intends to propose to the operating committee of Say Yes Buffalo today that the organization’s Community Leadership Council convene all stakeholders to provide input into the district’s student transfer plan.
He specifically recommends Say Yes lead an intensive problem-solving process to deal with the school district’s underlying school equity issues. That work, which could take a few months, could be tacked on to whatever student transfer plan the state approves, he said.
The superintendent said she is open to the concept. Brown also said she has already worked with Say Yes and American Institutes for Research during the past eight months to develop a strategic plan that addresses the equity issues about which parents have raised concerns.
She said she intends to present that plan at the board’s first regular meeting next Wednesday.
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