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Buffalo Public Schools award the contract to Say Yes for community program

The Buffalo Public Schools will turn to a familiar partner to help pull off the district’s new community schools program beginning in September.

The Board of Education on Tuesday awarded Say Yes Buffalo the contract to manage the community schools project, which will include the hiring of 12 new staff members at a cost of $832,000.

The money will come from the $12.5 million that the district received in state money to introduce the community school model at 13 city schools, where more “wraparound” services will be offered to students and their parents. That will include after-school and Saturday programs; tutoring and mentoring; adult education; and services for the neediest students.

Say Yes was one of three organizations to bid for the contract and was chosen based on the related work it already does in the district, officials said. Besides providing college scholarships to graduating students, Say Yes offers summer enrichment programs, mental health clinics and legal services at city schools.

However, board members Theresa A. Harris-Tigg, Patricia A. Pierce and Paulette Woods all raised questions about the contract. Harris-Tigg, in particular, was concerned about giving over too much control to Say Yes.

Superintendent Kriner Cash said he’s grateful for the assistance from Say Yes, because the district doesn’t have the staff to coordinate all the activities within the new community schools.

David P. Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo, said that this is the first time the nonprofit has submitted a request to do this type of work and it will end up paying about $40,000 out of its own pocket for in-kind services, equipment and training.

East, South Park, Bennett and Lafayette high schools all have been tagged as community schools, as were Harvey Austin School, West Hertel Academy, Southside Academy, Highgate Heights, Herman Badillio, Hamlin Park, Lovejoy Discovery, Marva J. Daniels Preparatory and Westminster Community Charter School.

Say Yes will end up hiring a project manager to oversee the community school program at a cost of $107,000; two zone leaders for a total of $149,000; and nine community school facilitators for a total cost of $576,000. Say Yes also will hire people to staff several “parent centers” at four of the community schools to improve parent engagement in the district.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first for the new-look, nine-member board, with new members Hope R. Jay, Jennifer L. Mecozzi and Woods coming aboard and Barbara A. Seals Nevergold taking over as board president.

The meeting was civil but wasn’t without some drama.

Cash and board member Sharon M. Belton-Cottman had a terse exchange over the superintendent’s hiring and moving around of 38 principals and assistant principals for the coming year.

In other business:

• The board approved sending in an application to the state Education Department for a new round of school-improvement grant funding.

The application needed board approval so it could be submitted by the deadline Wednesday, which was one of the reasons the meeting was switched to Tuesday.

• A dozen students and parents rallied outside City Hall before the board meeting to urge the board to make “healthier” schools a priority this year.

Parents say that the district still remains out of compliance with state standards for physical and health education and needs to update its wellness policy.


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