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Gains by 2 struggling Buffalo schools avert takeover, for now

Two persistently struggling Buffalo schools on the state’s watch list have made enough improvement to ward off being taken over by an outside entity – at least for now.

The fate of West Hertel Academy, at Hertel Avenue and Military Road, and Marva J. Daniels Futures Preparatory School, on Carlton Street in the city’s Fruit Belt section, was still uncertain until Wednesday when the state Education Department announced that the two showed “demonstrable” improvement last year.

This means that independent, outside bodies won’t be brought in to run the schools this year.

“We will not have to surrender our schools to an independent receivership,” said Casandra Wright, associate superintendent for school leadership. “We get to maintain control over those schools and continue on their upward trajectory.”

West Hertel and Futures, however, will need to continue to implement their turnaround plans and remain in receivership under the direct supervision of Superintendent Kriner Cash.

At the end of the year, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will once again look at whether the schools have met their performance targets and make another determination.

“What we know right now is this year and next year those indicators will be revisited,” Wright said Wednesday, “but we haven’t learned much about the long-term plan.”

West Hertel and Futures were among the first schools in the state to be placed under a new state receivership law that gave the superintendent unprecedented powers to help turn them around.

The schools had one year to show measurable progress in key areas – including student achievement, graduation rates, attendance and suspension rates, among others – or face takeover by an outside entity.

The schools received extra funding for added staff, more student technology and professional development for teachers to help hit those target goals. Meanwhile, the commissioner and her staff made numerous visits to the schools to monitor changes happening within the buildings, Wright said.

On Wednesday, Wright gave credit to the teachers and leadership at West Hertel and Futures.

“These schools that made demonstrable improvement are laying the foundation for accelerated improvement in student results in future years,” Elia said. “There is much more to be done, but we are pleased with the turnaround that has started and, with continued support, can further progress in these schools.”

West Hertel and Futures were among nine schools across the state acknowledged Wednesday for their progress.

One school in the Bronx did not show demonstrable improvement.

If a school fails to make improvement after one year, Elia is required to direct the district to appoint an independent receiver for the school.

email: jrey@buffnews.com

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