By Peter A. Hazzan
Everyone is looking for answers to the Buffalo Public School District’s “abysmal and falling graduation rates at many of its underperforming high schools.” Some community leaders “pointed to poverty as the biggest reason.” Others said more resources and early intervention are what is needed most.
How do you take a company from good to great or a professional sports team to a championship? One way is to provide the best leadership, resources and personnel in key positions.
What is missing in the district is an overall lack of differentiated accountability in and service and support to its schools. There is no evidence of coherent support or oversight from the district for priority schools.
Principals say that they are disconnected, unguided and unsupported due to lack of services and support from the district.
All this, and more, is spelled out in the outline of the action plan by distinguished educator Judy Elliott, Ph.D., which was submitted to the district Oct. 5, 2012.
In addition, the consulting firm of Cross & Joftus submitted a systems review of Buffalo Public Schools to the district May 15, 2012.
In that review, it was stated that “BPS does not have a systemic approach to or plan for preparing all students for college and careers. Without a plan or appropriate supports in place, district departments and schools operate as islands.”
The good news is that Superintendent Pamela Brown is working on these issues, among other strategies, to move the district forward.
There is a 2013 Strategic Planning Process Task Force in place made up of school district personnel and community stakeholders working on these very issues. Task force members have been meeting since January.
Brown is working on building trust, collaboration and communication in a thoughtful, transparent and coordinated manner.
Implementing the recommendations from the strategic planning process and creating a culture in which all school employees bind together in support of their district’s new grand vision and strategic direction is the next step for Brown.
When conducted collaboratively, the visioning process can contribute to a school culture that demonstrates cooperation, meaningful involvement and dedication to continuous improvement.
Peter A. Hazzan is a member of the Buffalo Public Schools 2013 Strategic Planning Process Task Force (Talent Management) and co-chairman of the Multilingual Education Advisory Committee.