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No extra time to be given for Buffalo school turnaround plans

Despite pleas to the state by the Buffalo School District, the out-of-time schools will not receive any extra time.

At Wednesday night’s School Board meeting, interim Superintendent Donald A. Ogilvie informed the board that the staff and alumni working on the turnaround plans for Bennett, Lafayette and East high schools and Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute would like more time to finish them.

These plans are due to be submitted to the district Dec. 12. Each of the four schools is working on its own turnaround plans, though outside groups may also submit proposals. If no acceptable plans are approved by the state, these four schools would be phased out of existence. Therefore, the four out-of-time schools have great incentive to put forth the strongest proposals possible.

But many of these schools, and Bennett High School in particular, fell behind because of the November snowstorm. In addition, although the state demanded that the district provide full-time facilitators to help these schools develop their plans, most of those facilitators weren’t hired until a week or two ago.

That led board member Barbara A. Seals Nevergold to ask whether turnaround planners could get one more week to finalize them.

The district could give turnaround planners more time to complete their proposals, Ogilvie said, but this would mean turnaround plans for all four schools could not be implemented for the next school year. They would be delayed until 2016-17.

Meanwhile, the year-by-year phaseouts of the existing schools would move forward. For example, Bennett, which was not allowed to enroll any ninth-graders this year, would have no ninth- or 10th-graders next year.

Ogilvie said that giving schools even one more week of time would make it impossible for the district to select and gain state approval for turnaround plans in time for implementation for the next school year because the extra week would then run into the long winter break.

He added that he spoke with state officials about whether the district could be given more leeway and was told no. The board remains obligated to select and submit turnaround plans to the state for each of the four schools by Jan. 30.

“We have job to do here. We have kids in schools that are not performing,” said board member Carl P. Paladino. “The delays only put off their lives and their opportunities for an education.”

He added that if it turns out a school’s plan isn’t strong enough to implement for next school year, the board can choose to delay implementation for another year, but that shouldn’t be the plan right now.

Nevergold said that if a week delay is not possible, then the district should work harder to provide more resources and support to the schools so they have all they need to create strong plans.

“Somebody’s got to step up to the plate,” she said. “We need to have the resources from Central Office. … That is the need that they have, and that is what they were promised.”

Chief Academic Officer Linda L. Cimusz responded that every request made of the district by these schools has been granted and that more resources will be provided in the coming days.

Visit the live blog at buffalonews.com/schoolzone. email: stan@buffnews.com