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DPCC plan allows parents to assert their opinions on how to fix Buffalo’s struggling schools

The District Parent Coordinating Council wants Buffalo parents to speak up about ways to fix the district’s 25 struggling schools that are now in the hands of the schools’ superintendent.

And the way to do it is through the Community Engagement Team at each location, say DPCC leaders.

The program has “real” potential for parents – along with principals, teachers, other school staff and students – to be involved in the decision-making at the building level of some of the school district’s most troubled schools, said DPCC President Samuel L. Radford III.

During a Friday afternoon press conference at an East Side community center, the group implored parents to contact their school to become a part of the community engagement team.

“If you have a solution, this is your opportunity,” he said. “Everything we’ve been complaining about or concerned about as parents – we have a way to change those things if we participate in the solution.”

Radford’s plea to parents came after he attended a conference in Albany earlier this week about schools in receivership.

Twenty-five schools, which account for nearly half of all Buffalo Public Schools, are in danger of falling under the control of an independent outside receiver that would take them over within one or two years if the target schools do not show “demonstrable improvement.”

In the meantime, the schools will be under the control of district superintendent – currently Darren Brown on an interim basis – who will serve as their immediate receiver responsible for developing acceptable turnaround plans for the 25 schools.

The superintendent would directly oversee the schools, with the broader authority to remove school administrators and teachers, restructure the school day, mandate teacher training and renegotiate union contracts on a school-by-school basis.

Acting as the receiver, the superintendent also has the option of converting any of the troubled schools into charter schools or community schools.

The state Education Department expects the turnaround plans to be completed by the start of the school year. Once approved, according to the state, whoever is superintendent for the district takes immediate ownership of schools. As the immediate receiver for the district’s 25 “struggling” or “persistently struggling schools,” the superintendent would be able to supersede all local district leadership, including the School Board.

The state’s receivership model requires the school district to create a Community Engagement Team at each of the 25 schools no later than 20 days after the school has been put into receivership, according to NYSED’s website. The team’s recommendations must accompany the school’s intervention plan, and the receiver must identify which recommendations were incorporated into the plan and how, as well as which recommendations were not included in the plan and why.

It’s a prime opportunity for stakeholders to weigh and give input that directly affects the targeted schools, Radford said.

“Instead of complaining, you can be part of the solution. You don’t have to deal with the district or the whole board. It’s just your school,” he said.

Lloyd Hargrave, a DPCC advisor, agreed.

“This is the best opportunity we’ve had for people from the community and parents to have an actual say-so about what’s going to happen in the schools that their kids attend,” he said.

DPCC leader Lisa Griffith is a parent of a student enrolled at Lafayette High School, one of the 25 schools in superintendent receivership. She said she plans to join the school’s CET to advocate for more interpreters.

“The biggest problem is the percentage of English Language learners. We’re at about 70 percent with 42 different languages and seven translators not even in the six top languages,” she said.

Parents from the 25 schools in receivership, who are interested in being a part of the engagement teams, should contact the school.