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UB taking more active role in Buffalo schools

Helping Buffalo public school students graduate from high school and be better prepared for college will be a priority initiative for the University at Buffalo, its president said Tuesday.

UB President John B. Simpson said the university will make a more comprehensive, concerted effort to expand existing programs and faculty involvement in the Buffalo schools, with the intent of helping boost graduation rates.

Simpson plans to hire a staffer in his office to head up this "pre-K through 16" initiative.

"This is something I consider as a university-wide priority, and for which I as president of the university take responsibility," Simpson said.

Simpson made the announcement alongside Buffalo Superintendent James A. Williams and Mayor Byron W. Brown on Tuesday afternoon at UB's New York State Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences at Ellicott and Virginia streets.

Williams and Brown applauded the formal partnership with this powerful ally.

Nationally, 70 percent of students in public high schools graduate, but only 32 percent leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges, Williams said.

"If our children are going to prosper, we need to reverse this trend," he said.

It's only going to help UB, and other local colleges, all of which have some type of collaboration with Buffalo schools, the officials added.

Right now, between 70 and 100 city school graduates are enrolled at UB each year, according to the university.

Becoming more engaged in the local public schools has been one of Simpson's personal interests since arriving at UB nearly three years ago.

While he believes higher education can't solve all the complex problems facing urban school systems, he said universities have the expertise, and a certain responsibility, to help address these issues.

Simpson on Tuesday didn't offer specific details on the partnership, but as an example pointed to a program started last year by UB chemistry professor Joseph A. Gardella Jr., who is working with middle school teachers at Buffalo's Native American Magnet School to improve the teaching of math and science.

"You might see early childhood experts sharing the latest insights on cognitive development, addiction researchers working to break generational cycles of dependence and laboratory scientists demonstrating novel techniques and exciting discoveries," Simpson said.

Williams, for instance, has mentioned that UB could help provide mentoring opportunities for students and teachers, or expertise in developing an Entrepreneurship High School that would prepare students to become business owners.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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