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State Education Department wants proof that Buffalo district consulted parents in planning

The state Education Department wants Buffalo School District leaders to prove that they offered meaningful opportunities for parents to weigh in on the district’s comprehensive improvement plan and the consolidated application that enables the district to qualify for more than $20 million in federal grant funding.

Samuel L. Radford III, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council, said Sunday that he’s confident there’s no way the district will be able to provide such evidence, which will result in the district being sent back to the drawing board to redraft both documents.

“In this particular case, I believe they’re going to do what they should have done in the first place,” Radford said. “They should have just included us in the first place, and we wouldn’t have had to go through any of this.”

The latest letter from the state is part of a continuing pattern in which the parent council, or DPCC, warns the district and the Board of Education that they are about to take action that violates state rules, but administrators and board members move ahead without the parent council’s agreement.

So far, these actions have resulted in the state investigating the parent council’s complaints, siding with the parents and requiring the district to start over. That was most recently the case with the district’s student transfer plan, which was ordered to undergo further revision because of the lack of parent involvement.

In a letter Friday, Roberto Reyes, a director in the state Education Department’s Office of Accountability, said the state says it can “find no evidence that the DPCC was consulted” in the creation of the district’s comprehensive improvement plan or individual school improvement plans.

He added that he is also concerned about allegations by Radford that the district did not collaborate meaningfully with the parent council in the submission of the federal grant application that is subject to approval by the state.

Reyes is requiring the district to provide written evidence by Oct. 1 that it collaborated with the parent council in creating the comprehensive improvement plan and the federal grant application. If the state determines that the district has not met the requirement for parent involvement, the district will be required to consult with the parent council and resubmit all documents by Oct. 22.

With regard to the district’s comprehensive improvement plan, which the state requires of all school districts where a large percentage of schools are in bad standing with the state, Superintendent Pamela C. Brown has argued that the parent council was heavily involved in developing the district’s five-year strategic plan. That plan served as the basis of the district’s state-mandated comprehensive improvement plan.

As for the consolidated grant application, which is necessary for the disbursement of federal Title I antipoverty money and other federal grant funding, Brown said she personally made repeated overtures to the parent council to gain its input and to sign off on the application.

Radford said her outreach was too little too late and that her contact with him was preceded by an “insulting” meeting by central office staff on Aug. 12 in which DPCC parents were called in to listen to four verbal presentations regarding the mammoth grant application but were not given any presentation documents or handouts, were denied a copy of the actual draft grant application, and were not allowed to ask any questions until the very end.

DPCC representatives walked out on that meeting.

Brown stated that she and others subsequently made repeated, good-faith attempts to reschedule the meeting with the parent group but that all efforts to do so were unsuccessful.

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