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Buffalo parents group denounces calls for district takeover

A coalition of Buffalo parents and teachers Saturday denounced calls for a federal or state takeover of the Buffalo Public Schools, a proposal advanced recently by the leader of another parent group in the district.

“The public educators, parents, students and community members should determine the fate of our Buffalo schools, not a state or federal czar,” said Larry Scott, co-chairman of the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization.

Some who attended the news conference that was arranged are also representatives on the District Parent Coordinating Council. Its president, Samuel L. Radford III, on Wednesday called for the abolition of the School Board and the “immediate intervention by an independent third party” to run the district.

Radford does not speak for them, according to the parents and teachers present at the news conference in the cafeteria of East High School, 820 Northampton St.

“One parent does not represent the voices of all parents in the City of Buffalo,” said Roberta Cates, co-chairwoman of the Buffalo PTO. “That means that parents have to come together and work as a coalition to decide the future of our schools,” Cates added.

Radford, in response Saturday, insisted that he was not unilaterally responsible for the DPCC board’s recommendation but merely articulating the consensus of the board in a news release Wednesday when he called for the state’s intervention.

“We had a resolution to support the governor’s education agenda. In his education agenda, there was a proposal for a state takeover, and that passed,” Radford said, adding that he had no personal beef with those who opposed the position of the majority.

“They should have opposed it, because each of us at the DPCC represents our (individual) schools, and their schools – City Honors and Olmsted, in particular – are schools that benefit from the status quo. So their constituency base would not be as supportive of that (call). But the majority – 45 out of 57 schools in Buffalo are failing schools. So in a democratic process, you take a vote and majority rules,” Radford said.

Members of the BPTO group said Saturday that they support the idea of collective decision-making that include all parents, as well as teachers and others in the community to address the myriad issues facing Buffalo Public Schools.

“As parents, we support our teachers and building relationships with them to best meet the needs of our children. We do not tolerate unfounded attacks on teachers and pitting parents against teachers. This does not serve our children well and can only be harmful to their education and development,” Scott added.

Some members of the group who belong to the DPCC also complained about dissenting voices being marginalized or shut down at its meetings.

“I’ve been shut down in my own parent group a couple of times because of asking critical questions,” said Mine Dosluoglu, a parent facilitator and DPCC alternate from City Honors.

BPTO members Saturday also expressed opposition to what they described as the district’s overreliance on standardized testing which, they said, was being used by administrators and politicians to harshly judge and punish schools, teachers and children.

“The status quo of standardized testing since the early 2000s has been a systematic disaster to public education, and needs to stop,” Scott said.