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Another Buffalo Public Schools’ student transfer plan sent to Albany

The latest Buffalo Public Schools plan to move all 2,110 students in low-performing schools who requested to be transferred into schools in good standing is on its way to Albany.

The Buffalo Board of Education unanimously passed its School Choice Corrective Action Plan Wednesday night. The document is due at the state Education Department by Monday.

This plan stands a better chance of gaining approval this time, according to Judy Elliott, the distinguished educator whom State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. appointed to work with the Buffalo schools.

It includes a more aggressive timeline for finding new spots for students. And the Education Department provided a “lot more” technical assistance, Elliott said.

“It’s a substantially improved plan,” she said. “There will be enough seats by the beginning of the 2014 school year.”

But leaders with the District Parent Coordinating Council say the proposal still does not comply with state and federal laws that say all transfer requests must be granted.

The group plans to file a complaint with the state against the school district and ask King to appoint a special master to help develop the plan and gain full compliance.

While the submission may not bring full compliance, it is a way to get there, Elliott said.

“It doesn’t mean you have to be in compliance overnight. This is an action plan to get into compliance,” she said.

The parent council filed a different complaint with the state last week on the district’s comprehensive improvement plan and a consolidated application that enables the district to qualify for more than $20 million in federal funding.

The parent leaders complained they were not included in the process to create those documents.

The Education Department determined that the parent council was not properly consulted on the two plans the school board submitted them, and the state directed district leaders to prove they offered meaningful opportunities for parents to weigh in on the plans.

The school transfer plan approved by the board Wednesday is the fourth version it has forwarded to the state.

The district submitted the original transfer plan in May, which the Education Department’s Office of Accountability rejected for not complying with federal and state requirements.

The state demanded the district submit a corrective action plan by the end of June; that plan was refused because it lacked sufficient detail. The state gave Buffalo until mid-August to submit another plan to accommodate all transfer requests.

The state said in late August that the third version of the plan was not good enough and demanded more details on goals, progress targets, activities, timelines, documentation and measurement strategies.

So far, school officials have granted 245 of the 2,110 transfer requests.

Another 141 declined the transfers they requested, and 65 others either moved out of the district, already attended schools in good standing or did not return phone calls or respond to letters sent out by the district, said Will Keresztes, the district’s chief of student support services, at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

Of the 245 placements, 184 were granted to students in kindergarten through third-grade.

Most of the transfers – 137 – involved African-American students. Forty-three white students and 35 Hispanic students have also been transferred.