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Health, music and beer ads become hot board topics

Protests to the Buffalo district's loss of school band programs carried the day Wednesday, but the Buffalo Board of Education dealt with a number of matters that deserve attention.

Among them:

- Health advocates and members of the District Parent Coordinating Council carved out a little time during the "forGOT MUSIC?" instrumental music rally on the steps of City Hall to announce that they had officially filed a letter with the state asking for oversight regarding the district's compliance with the state regulations for physical and health education. The News first had a story about this on Wednesday.

Superintendent Pamela Brown said the district is going to train classroom teachers to provide some of the physical education required by elementary students next school year and that the district is working on upgrading the health curriculum for next school year, as well.

Both she and a several board members said they were "surprised" and "taken aback" at the request for state oversight, given the progress the district was making through its physical activity and wellness committees, even though the district's wellness policy was approved more than a year ago.

"We've been working on this a few months and we're nearing the end of it," said board member Lou Petrucci. "We've been addressing this. We don't want to rush something through that's half baked."

 - The board approved a new policy to accommodate students with limited-English-speaking ability. Board member Ralph Hernandez, who will be leaving the board at the end of this month, said the policy gives him reassurance that English language learners will have equitable curriculum access after he ends the board term. The board thanked Hernandez for his advocacy for all English language learners.

- The board approved the "Journeys" elementary reading series for students. The series, described in an earlier blog post, was approved by all board members but Jason McCarthy, who voted against the board's approval of the textbooks because no cost was listed for them in the board resolution.

- In regard to instrumental music cuts, the board asked Chief Financial Officer Barbara Smith to provide the Finance Committee a school-by-school breakdown of instrumental music staffing at each school, in light of complaints about cuts to the program.

Petrucci also referenced the unintended consequences of the school-based-budgeting process that led to the dramatic decline in music cuts.

"When we as a board decided to give some degree of autonomy to the local schools to do some of their site-based budgeting, none of us intended that the first thing they would cut would be instrumental music," he said, referring to the lack of balance between academic, physical and creative education in all schools. "When we focus on one aspect, you see the outcome. You see what people want. They want that balance in education for their children."

- The board approved a resolution asking the NFTA to cease accepting and posting large bus ads promoting alcoholic beverages. The board was very critical of the NFTA and asked that a representative for the agency appear before a board committee to respond to the board's concern.

"We are their largest customer," Petrucci pointed out.

Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant expressed her support for the resolution and distributed images of interior and exterior Coors Light bus ads that high school students are being exposed to going to and from school.

Coors ad





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