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Buffalo School Board approves proposal to cut kindergarten class sizes

The Buffalo Board of Education Wednesday night unanimously approved a proposal by Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie to spend $1.6 million to reduce kindergarten class sizes that have some 5-year-olds in classrooms of more than 30 children.

But that action was quickly subsumed by angry tirades from organized groups that continue to be outraged by what they see as an open invitation by the board majority to allow charter schools to take over struggling district schools.

As part of Ogilvie’s opening recommendations, he pointed out that the kindergarten saw unprecedented growth this school year, from 2,762 to 2,872 students. In 63 percent of district kindergarten classes, classrooms had more than 24 students. In 6 percent of classrooms there are more than 30 children.

Ogilvie’s plan would either split crowded kindergarten classrooms or, where there isn’t room to do that, add more teacher assistants to existing crowded classrooms. The proposal would also establish a “preferred kindergarten ratio” of 20-25 to 1.

Meanwhile, the School Board continued to be assailed by pro-public school groups and teachers who view the board majority’s vote to invite charter school applications for the 2014-15 school year as selfish and disloyal.

The organized efforts to attack the board majority began a half hour before the board meeting when more than 50 people, including board member Barbara Nevergold, attended an anti-Carl Paladino rally sponsored by the Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action.

Shouting “Carl must go!” they replayed comments that Paladino apparently made in September before the Erie County Community Enrichment Committee when he stated that the solution to the problems plaguing the district was the “disassembly” of the public school system and making more seats available in charter, private and Catholic schools.

“We’re supporting the closing of a number of Buffalo Public Schools and turning them into charters,” he was recorded saying. “That’s the game we’re playing.”

The rally was part of a larger orchestrated effort to try to undermine Paladino. The Alliance for Quality Education released a report Wednesday regarding his financial ties to charter schools.

The hostile tone of the rally later migrated into the board room where many speakers had signed up to speak before the board. Ear-ringing yelling, shored up by hoots and applause from the audience, resulted in sharp and repeated gavel-banging by Board President James Sampson over the course of nearly an hour and a half.

Aside from anti-charter sentiment, speakers also called on the board to support Lafayette High School, which needs a new, state-approved academic plan to remain open, along with Bennett and East high schools and Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute. They also asked the board for more staffing and lower class sizes.

For a full breakdown of the meeting, review the live blog at www.buffalonews.com/schoolzone

email: stan@buffnews.com