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Dixon hoping state rules on 7 improvement plans this week

Interim School Superintendent Amber M. Dixon expects to get a decision by the end of the week from state officials on improvement plans for Lafayette and East high schools and five elementary schools.

The future of those schools is not directly affected by the district's lack of a teacher-evaluation plan for 2011-12.

But plans for four of those schools involve bringing in outside groups to run them. And to get the federal funding to do that, the district must have a teacher-evaluation plan for 2012-13 by July 1.

Among the plans under review by the state are those for East and Lafayette, which involve hiring Johns Hopkins University to run the schools.

Johns Hopkins earlier this week pulled out as an applicant to run those two schools, saying the uncertainty surrounding Buffalo's teacher-evaluation situation put the federal funding in jeopardy -- and therefore, the university's ability to put the necessary staffing in place.

Dixon said she asked a state official for a ruling on the East and Lafayette plans, anyway.

"I said, 'I would like you to approve or disapprove the plans, because I can get back on the phone with Johns Hopkins and beg them,' " she said.

Dixon said Assistant Education Commissioner Ira Schwartz asked whether the district would have a teacher-evaluation agreement in place by July 1. He also noted that Johns Hopkins has announced that it has withdrawn its 2012-13 applications.

"I said, 'Regardless of whether Johns Hopkins is going to be the [educational partnership organization], I want you to make a decision as if they were,' " Dixon said.

School Board members said they have been receiving many phone calls from Lafayette teachers who are asking for support to keep the school open. Some board members said that if the teachers union would sign off on the teacher-evaluation plan, the school's future would not be as uncertain.

"When teachers call you, ask them to call [the Buffalo Teachers Federation], too," said Barbara Seals Nevergold, an at-large board member.

Two other schools also submitted plans that involved hiring an outside group: Waterfront Elementary, with Canisius College; and Buffalo Elementary School of Technology, with Research to Practice.

Even if the state approves the plans for those schools, along with East and Lafayette, officials have said they will not release funding for the plans unless Buffalo has a signed teacher-evaluation plan in place by July 1.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. has said the district would not need a teacher-evaluation plan in place if it decided to switch models at those schools and instead use a turnaround model, which involves moving half the teachers in each building.

"The Lafayette community and the East community each wrote a strong turnaround plan," Dixon said.

The focus in the district in recent weeks has been on reaching a teacher-evaluation plan for the current school year for six low-performing schools that received federal funds in 2011-12.

In January, King suspended $5.6 million for those schools because the district did not have an evaluation plan that met state standards.

But there are seven more schools applying for federal funds for 2012-13: Lafayette, East, Buffalo Elementary School of Technology, Waterfront Elementary, Bilingual Center School 33, Drew Science Magnet and Futures Academy.