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PLAN ADOPTED TO BEEF UP HIGH SCHOOL

The Buffalo Board of Education unanimously approved an improvement plan for Grover Cleveland High School on Wednesday that gives the troubled school a modest infusion of resources and a more ambitious academic mission..

Grover Cleveland Principal Benjamin Randle said the plan, forwarded to the state for review, "will go a long way toward making Grover a gem."

Not everyone is happy.

"We got screwed again," said Andres Garcia, a prominent Hispanic leader who is chairman of the task force that has been dealing with Grover Cleveland since the state designated it a troubled school last fall because of low test scores.

"I feel it's a start, but it falls extremely short," he said. The plan addresses everything piecemeal, from the library to textbooks to the repairs needed on the building. Everything falls short. Everything."

"We would all like to do everything at once," Randle said in response to the criticism. "But you have to balance what you need with what you fiscally and physically have available to you. This is a good start in a lean fiscal year."

The state demanded a plan to correct problems found earlier this year by a team of experts who reviewed the school and concluded it suffers from disjointed curriculum, inadequate textbooks and supplies, and ineffective teaching practices in some subject areas.

School officials drafted a 100-page proposal, the basis for the board's action Wednesday.

In the short run, the school will focus on more training for teachers, increasing books and supplies, and developing long-range plans to upgrade curriculum and the library.

The school, where 6.8 teacher and 9.5 teacher's aide positions have been trimmed in the last two years, will add 1.5 teacher and four teacher's aide slots in the coming school year.

Funding for library books, textbooks and supplies and equipment will increase to $184,803 from $56,999.

A shop program will be restored. A language lab will be established.

An additional 640 library books will be purchased, in what Randle hopes is a down payment toward the 4,000 additional titles the library needs to meet minimal state requirements.

In total, the board approved an additional $380,000 for the coming year. Grover Cleveland's instructional budget last year was $6.6 million.

The board's approval also puts into action a long-range plan to modify Grover Cleveland's academic mission.

The school, located on Fourteenth Street near Kleinhans Music Hall, handles students from the neighborhood and those from across the city who don't speak English as their first language.

Last school year, its students came from 31 countries and spoke 23 different languages or dialects.

The school will retain its name for the time being, but in the long-run probably will be renamed the Western New York Regional International High School.

It will continue to handle the same same mix of students, but its program will be changed to stress higher academic standards and expose students to a variety of career opportunities.

"This will fall in line with the new state standards, challenge kids to do their best and give them a more defined direction on choosing a career pathway," Randle said.

Students will take four years of intensive instruction in one of four foreign languages -- Spanish, French, probably Russian and either Chinese or Japanese.

The curriculum will be expanded to include vocational and academic courses focusing on business and education, in affiliation with Buffalo State College, and health careers, in conjunction with D'Youville College.

Freshmen and sophomores will take a range of courses to gain exposure to different career possibilities and select a focus as juniors.

Randle said he hopes to begin phasing the program in during the 1998-99 school year.

In other action, Superintendent James Harris withdrew his reorganization plan after several board members raised objections to several components at an executive committee meeting Tuesday.

Harris said he wanted to confer with board members more extensively before seeking their approval.

Contentious issues included the proposed duplication of the director of food services job and the creation of two more assistant superintendent positions.

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