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A recent story in The News concerning admissions to City Honors School highlights a great educational challenge confronting the Buffalo School District -- equal access to quality education for all of our children.

Finding the path to that goal in this post-integration litigation period will be difficult, especially as the federal legal environment is unsettled in this area.

In looking for that solution, Rod Watson's insightful follow-up column of Oct. 9 demonstrates that learning abilities and educational success are elusive matters that are not easily defined or measured by traditional standards and test scores.

As Mr. Watson points out, academic success and real-world performance transcend boundaries of sex, race and creed.

As a parent member of City Honors' site-based management team, the Buffalo School District Committee of Stakeholders, I do not pretend to have the answer.

However, I do offer a different definition of the problem, which may avert future wholesale lawsuits and move toward quality education.

Simply put, the city needs another academic, college-preparatory high school that attracts high-performing students from all segments of the city.

Currently, the Buffalo School District primarily relies on Hutchinson-Central Technical High School and City Honors School as its core college-preparatory high schools. These are supplemented by programs within other schools, such as at Lafayette, McKinley, Bennett and Emerson.

As good as Hutch-Tech and City Honors are, they are limited in size and scope. Hutch-Tech could be renamed Hutch Hi-Tech for its excellent engineering, math, computer and applied science curriculum. But that program is not for everyone.

City Honors (as its name implies) is not a true high school but rather a program for grades five through 12. The curriculum in the lower grades is the foundation for the courses offered in the higher grades.

Traditionally, only about 25 students enter at the ninth grade, with roughly half coming from the Olmsted program and the other dozen or so slots filled from the rest of the city. City Honors' almost exclusive offering of advanced placement and international baccalaureate classes also is not for everybody.

Unfortunately, some students get shoehorned into these schools because there is no other college-preparatory high school alternative.

We Buffalonians should be proud of the fact that our Pre-K through eighth-grade programs produce many highly motivated, intelligent and successful students -- more than Hutch-Tech and City Honors can accommodate.

A third college-preparatory high school, offering advanced academic courses, is sorely needed.

The attendance at a recent Saturday morning Buffalo School District Parents' Forum on selecting a high school drew a crowd of parents and students far beyond expectations. Thedemand, interest and need for another academic high school is there.

Following that path will allow us to focus our debate on how to best provide a quality high school education to our many fine teen-age students, rather than looking for legal loopholes to support our current restricted access to these limited programs.

Paul G. Buchanan Buffalo

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