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State Ed is once again asked to sort out a dispute over school district compliance

The State Education Department has again been tasked with the job of distinguishing between reality and perception in the Buffalo School District.

And, once again, school leaders are not looking good, after the District Parent Coordinating Council filed a formal complaint recently with State Ed accusing the district of violating state and federal laws.

Good for the DPCC. There is a clear disconnect between what local education officials perceive and the reality on the ground. Parents desperate for an improved system have had enough of what they’re hearing – and seeing. That’s why, in addition to requesting an investigation by the state education commissioner, DPCC President Samuel L. Radford III also wants the removal of several board members to be considered. Just considered.

Radford made clear that the parent council is not calling for the removal of a board member or the superintendent. But it feels close to it, as Radford pointed to a series of votes by six veteran board members as being, in his opinion, in violation of the law. Newcomers Carl Paladino, James M. Sampson and Theresa Harris-Tigg may remain seated.

The parent group accuses the board of violating the law 14 times just in the last year. So, for the first time, the DPCC is looking for penalties. Who could blame the parents? Students have been paying the price for educational leadership that has failed them for years and years.

The worst violations, as the parent group sees it, include the district’s submission of a student transfer plan that accommodated fewer than one-fourth of the 2,200 students in low-performing schools who requested a transfer; the adoption of class schedules that fail to meet the state requirements for physical education; and the adoption of a district improvement plan that failed to include the required input from parents.

The state sees scant evidence that the parent group was consulted in the creation of the district’s comprehensive improvement plan or individual school improvement plans. Moreover, the state is concerned about accusations by Radford that the district did not collaborate meaningfully with the parent council in submitting federal grant applications.

Now the district has to provide written evidence that it worked with the parent council on the comprehensive improvement plan and the federal grant applications. If the district can’t document such collaboration, it will have to do what it should have done in the first place and consult with the parent council, and then resubmit all documents by Oct. 22.

Superintendent Pamela C. Brown insists that the parent council was, indeed, heavily involved in developing the district’s comprehensive improvement plan and that she personally made repeated overtures to the parent council to gain its input and to sign off on the consolidated grant application.

Obviously, Brown and the parents can’t both be right. And based on past practice, it seems likely that the district has done what it perceives to be right, and State Ed will again have to step in and inject a bit of reality.