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Move those teachers? Maybe not

As recently as a few days ago, it seemed all but certain that more than 200 teachers in the Buffalo schools would be moved -- against their will, against the wishes of parents, and against the better judgment of the Board of Education.

Despite what parents and teachers alike say was a lack of consultation, let alone collaboration, at nine low-achieving schools, district administrators seemed entirely set on the large-scale teacher shuffle at most of those schools.

And for all we know, maybe administrators still are determined to move those teachers.

But now we know something else, too.

If the district does move forward and file turnaround plans that hinge on moving those teachers, there seems to be a pretty good chance that move could trigger a slew of bad news for the Buffalo Public Schools.

While there's nothing explicitly spelled out in state or federal regulations requiring the district to work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop school turnaround plans, state officials  who were in town last week (see the full story here) made it pretty clear that it would be a tough sell for any plan that's so clearly opposed by just about everyone in the community.

If the state rejects those turnaround plans, the district stands to lose $54 million -- and, in a worst-case scenario, the state could take over those schools.

That's not all we know now that we didn't know before.

When Senior Deputy Education Commissioner John King Jr. came to town last week, he and his staff delivered some welcome news to those who want to avoid the teacher transfers.

One of the other school turnaround models available to the district involves having an educational partnership organization (EPO) take over a low-performing school. It's a model that Buffalo officials had largely tossed aside, saying there are few EPOs, and besides, there's not enough time left to find one.

State officials who were in town last week told Board of Ed members Ralph Hernandez and Chris Jacobs that if the district chooses that option, it does not have to select an EPO for each school by the May 9 deadline. It just has to outline a process by which it would evaluate EPOs. And then the district has until July to get an EPO in place at each school.

State officials also clarified that a prospective EPO does not need to have a proven track record of turning around failing schools -- as had been previously believed. A prospective EPO just needs to prove it has the "capacity" to turn around a failing school.

One of the meetings King held Thursday was with leaders of several local colleges, each of which could serve as an EPO if it chose to. Those colleges now know they could step forward as a potential EPO. It remains to be seen how many -- if any -- will step forward as a potential candidate to run a Buffalo school. But that's a door that wasn't so much as cracked open a week ago.

We'll have more later this week on what else King had to say when he was in Buffalo.

So stay tuned.

- Mary Pasciak

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