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Buffalo parents speak out on district controlling information and race issues

Ever since I started covering this beat nearly a year ago, I've been fortunate to get lots of great input from readers.

The past few weeks, though, the volume of e-mails has skyrocketed! It's great to hear from so many people. I do read every e-mail, and I truly appreciate each one. Keep them coming!

Different e-mails strike me as important for different reasons. Some offer tidbits of information I hadn't known before. Some offer tips for me to check on as possible story leads. Some challenge one aspect or another of my reporting, which always helps me reflect better on my work. And some offer insights or perspectives that help me think about things in a different way.

The two that I want to share with you today both come from parents in the Buffalo Public Schools.

(These parents gave me permission to post their e-mails on the condition that I not use their names. So I also removed any information that I thought might identify them.)

The first e-mail comes in response to my blog post this week about the district's response to my FOIL request for the resumes of exempt employees:

I am a mother of [number of] children who are in the BPS system and have been a PTO board member for the past [number of] years. 

I can tell you that the district's actions regarding giving information to you or anyone else is typical.  They are nothing but bullies when it comes to parents, and it appears they are trying to do the same with you. 

What information the PTO posts on our own PTO Parent Information Board at [one of my children's] elementary school is filtered. 

We are told that certain items (we have tried posting your recent articles) are NOT to be posted and if parents want information they can read the News.  So it is no surprise they are trying to withhold information and giving you the runaround. 

I have always said that if parents knew a third of what REALLY GOES ON they would have a coronary. I just want to say THANK YOU on behalf of the parents who struggle to maneuver and function in a district so full of arrogance, deceit, and corruption.

This e-mail comes in response to a blog post about the racial composition of Buffalo schools:

I am a parent of a student at Lorraine Elementary, and I wanted to commend you on calling Ralph Hernandez out. The school is not integrated. It is anything but.

We started our first year at Lorraine in September, and since early on I noticed how many more "white" students there were than any other race combined.  I guess I should have done my homework on it before choosing this school, but I figured that considering it is a "choice" school that it would be well mixed.... NOT!!!

In fact, it seems that even the staff is primarily white. I also want to point out that before [my son] went to Lorraine he was in a school that was in my opinion relatively mixed, and he did very well academically, socially, and well, just in general.

Now fast-forward to this year and his grades have plummeted, he is a social outcast, and is miserable. The staff is very hard to talk to,  and have done absolutely nothing to make him feel welcome even though I have voiced my concerns. I believe that it is due to his race; he is a dark Hispanic and Italian mix, and I think he feels like he doesn't fit in. 

I am not e-mailing you to bash the school, and if you have no response - I understand,  but when I read the article a few weeks ago about the Discovery School being primarily white, and now this article, I felt the need to say something. 

It is not fair that they are all white. I don't think it is a coincidence either. Considering that they are "lottery based" and "top performing," shouldn't they be highly desirable to any parent looking for a school? 

So thank you for calling Ralph Hernandez out. I saw him not too long ago at Lorraine for an assembly; he had to have noticed all the peach faces, and to disagree that the system isn't flawed is outrageous. When 67% of a school is one race it takes its toll on its students. I know it has on my son, and we are looking for a new school - maybe we will get lucky and find one that is a high performing school and  a mixed school. I don't think it is too much to ask.

(Note to readers: I have since spoken with Hernandez about the racial distribution of students in city schools, and he told me he spent some time looking through the database I posted with those breakdowns. He was not only surprised by the actual numbers, but is now quite concerned about the uneven distribution in many schools.)

- Mary Pasciak

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