White parents who feel their children are being locked out of two Buffalo magnet schools pressed school officials Tuesday to delay proposed reforms to improve racial balance at the schools.
Until minority enrollment increases at the Frederick Law Olmsted School, the administration plans to enroll no more white children who live outside the school's attendance district. Also, no more white children will be accepted at City Honors.
About 50 parents who either have children in the schools or are seeking their enrollment there attended a School Board Program Committee meeting Tuesday to discuss the issue.
The School Board will discuss the administration's plan today.
The board's options may be limited. All magnet schools in the district are under a federal court desegregation order that requires them to have 50 percent minority enrollment. Both Olmsted and City Honors have minority enrollments of just over 40 percent.
Parents addressing committee members Tuesday said that although they support desegregation efforts, they said they had been led to believe their children had won admission to the schools, only to find out later that they were placed on waiting lists.
"We believe the timing of this policy change is terribly unfair and that we had a right to know this at the start of the process," said Flora Miller Sliwa of Admiral Road.
"This year's relative percentage of majority and minority students at Olmsted has been known since September," she continued. "Why was nothing been done until near the end of the school year to try to recruit more minorities, if that was necessary?"
She suggested that spaces for minority children be reserved while recruitment continues, and in the meantime, admit some of the white children on the waiting list.
Also drawing fire from parents were proposals to eliminate fifth through eighth grades at City Honors and testing for children not meeting the school's academic requirements by the eighth grade.
Stephen C. Halpern of Woodbridge Avenue, who has two sons attending City Honors, questioned why officials want to tamper with a successful program.
"We don't have . . . a serious educational problem at City Honors. Quite the contrary, what we've got is success. Not only ain't it broke, but it works beautifully. I've never heard to this day . . . a convincing, persuasive justification for fiddling with (the program at City Honors)," he said.
School Superintendent Albert Thompson said the magnet schools were created as a desegregation device.
"That was its prime mission. The goal that was established for (City Honors) and other magnet schools was 50 percent minority enrollment."
Thompson stressed that the proposed reforms would not reflect a change in board policy, which was adopted in 1980.
The superintendent said the reforms were prompted by concerns about access to magnet schools because of the limited number of spaces available. Other than neighborhood youngsters, he noted, 16 of 300 applicants were accepted into Olmsted's program.