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Read King's letter approving 2012-13 plans, tying money to teacher evals

Here is the full text of the letter the commissioner sent to the district:

May 3, 2012

Ms. Amber Dixon, Interim Superintendent
Buffalo Public Schools
712 City Hall
Buffalo, New York 14202

Dear Ms. Dixon:

I am writing regarding Buffalo Public Schools’ (BPS) initial application for federal 1003(g) School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding for seven persistently low-achieving (PLA) schools beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. After a rigorous application review, I have determined that six of the seven school applications have met the required minimum quality standards for funding. These applications may be approved for SIG funding, provided the conditions identified below are met by the dates specified. If the conditions are met, the award decisions and preliminary funding amounts will be:

- District plan to support implementation: Approval Pending; $1,400,000
- Buffalo Elementary School of Technology #6: Restart; Approval Pending; $1,779,483
- Waterfront Elementary #95: Restart; Disapprove
- Lafayette High School #204: Restart; Approval Pending; $1,779,871
- East High School #307: Restart; Approval Pending; $1,779,871
- Bilingual Center #33: Turnaround; Approval Pending; $1,800,000
- Futures Academy #37: Turnaround; Approval Pending; $1,541,077
- Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet #59: Turnaround; Approval Pending; $1,800,000

Total Preliminary Award Amount for 2012-2013: $13,741,077

BPS must meet the following conditions to receive final approval for these six school applications and the district plan to support their model implementation:

1. All approved schools implementing a Turnaround model must:

a. provide by May 14, 2012 the New York State Education Department (NYSED) with the specific locally-adopted competencies used for the screening of all staff (Note: USDE’s SIG Guidance describes locally-adopted competencies to include skills or consistent patterns of action that identify staff that can be effective in a turnaround situation.);

b. provide by May 14, 2012 NYSED with tables listing all teachers at each school, including each teacher’s most recent performance rating and the number of years that he or she has taught at the school. One table for each school should provide information on the current
staff and one chart should contain information on the proposed staff for the school following implementation of the Turnaround Model.

2. All approved schools implementing a Restart model must:

a. submit by July 1, 2012 an Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plan for my approval. Such plan must rigorously adhere to Education Law §3012-c and Commissioner's regulations, with implementation of all of its provisions for all classroom teachers and building principals. Without an APPR plan that complies with the law and regulations and has been approved by my office, I cannot approve Buffalo’s SIG Restart model applications, and the funding for these schools will not be released.

b. provide by no later than July 1, 2012 the fully executed jointly signed contract between BPS and the EPO, outlining clear lines of authority, autonomy, and accountability.

3. As the NYSED Title I Office completes its final review of the submitted FS-10 budgets, BPS must respond to any requests for information. Based on the Title I office’s final review of your budgets, BPS will be issued a separate budget award letter.

4. In the event that a Distinguished Educator (DE) is appointed, BPS is expected to enter into a contract with the DE expeditiously, but not later than 30 days following the DE’s appointment.

Once your application is fully approved, the district must revise the originally submitted SIG application to include all information provided through Requests for Information, and submit the application to NYSED for posting. NYSED will be posting your approved grant application to the following website:

For the Waterfront Elementary #95, BPS has until December 31, 2012 to submit an approvable School Under Registration Review (SURR) plan consistent with Commissioner’s regulations. If this plan is not submitted by this deadline, or if the plan submitted is not approvable, I will recommend revocation of the school’s registration to the Board of Regents.

For Lafayette High School, if BPS does not meet the conditions outlined in this letter, I will recommend revocation of the school’s registration to the Board of Regents.

I remain concerned about the district’s inability to reach agreement on a teacher and principal evaluation plan that meets the federal and state requirements.

As a condition for funding six Cohort 1 and 2 schools (Burgard High School, Riverside Institute of Technology, Bennett High School, Dr. Martin Luther King Institute, International School #45, and South Park High School), BPS provided a signed agreement with its local teacher and principal unions that certified that, by December 31, 2011, BPS and its unions would revise collective bargaining agreements for classroom teachers and building principals assigned to Transformation schools to implement the provisions of Education Law §3012-c, Commissioner’s regulations and the SIG application.

However, BPS failed to do so on time, and in January, I suspended the district’s SIG funding for its Transformation schools. BPS requested a hearing, and although the outcome is still pending, NYSED still has not received the required signed agreements. As a result, BPS may lose the remainder of its 2011-2012 funding for the six schools.

The SIG funding for these schools continues to be in jeopardy for the 2012-2013 school year. I cannot approve and will not award SIG funds unless the district submits for my approval an APPR plan that meets the requirements of Education Law §3012-c and the regulations for all teachers and principals. If the district fails to submit an approvable APPR plan, then these six schools must submit approvable SURR plans as required by Commissioner’s regulations. (Of the 10 SIG districts whose funding was suspended in January, eight have reached agreement on evaluation plans and have had their 2011-2012 funding restored.)

Without local agreement regarding evaluation plans, a total of approximately $57 million in funding for Buffalo schools is at risk (inclusive of SIG, RttT, and State aid) for the 2012-13 school year. Buffalo students should not be denied these resources. I urge you to do everything possible to reach a resolution on this issue.

Should you have any questions and/or need additional information, please contact Sally Bachofer, Assistant Commissioner of the Office School Innovation at, or Ira Schwartz, Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Accountability at

We look forward to supporting your efforts to successfully implement your intervention strategies and create new schools of excellence in Buffalo.

John B. King, Jr.

- Mary Pasciak

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