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No one wants the job of turning around B.U.I.L.D. Academy

The State Education Department last month ordered an outside takeover of Buffalo's B.U.I.L.D. Academy and gave the school district a choice:

Either find someone who can turn around the school on Fougeron Street after years of poor performance, or the state will appoint someone to do it.

But here's the problem: The state can't find anyone who wants the job.

That's the latest development, as Buffalo tries to maneuver its way through school receivership.

"The state it appears does not have anybody in the receivership cadre that is interested in taking Buffalo," Superintendent Kriner Cash told the Buffalo Board of Education this week, "so it comes down, in my mind, to me or us selecting, with my recommendation, an independent receiver who can come in."

News that no one raised their hand for the job was not unexpected.

Who would want to take over these receivership schools?

That has been one of the questions since the state legislation was enacted a couple years ago.

Buffalo's receivership schools improve – except one

"It's important to understand there isn’t a storehouse of leaders out there," said Board Member Theresa Harris-Tigg, whose East District includes B.U.I.L.D. "There are very few people doing this kind of work."

The school district has until January to appoint an independent receiver at B.U.I.L.D., who would assume full authority at the school starting in 2018-19. Cash also could ask the state that the school be closed and reopened under a new model.

"I think closing a school and reopening it is a tricky thing," Cash said. "I won't count it out if it were really something innovative we could reopen it to, but if it's just the same model ... then that does not excite me."

Cash is leaning in the other direction. He's interested in bringing in someone from the outside.

"That’s going to be a first choice," Cash said. "I've got one right now who I'm trying to woo into this and I think would be a terrific match."

Schools that are among the bottom 5 percent in the state for three consecutive years are placed in receivership, under a law that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed and state lawmakers passed in 2015.

The legislation gave superintendents sole control of these targeted schools along with unprecedented powers to turn them around, including the ability to bypass the union contract and involuntarily transfer teachers.

Buffalo started out with 25 schools in receivership. The following year, the state removed 10 of the schools from the receivership list, after they showed two years of progress and their status was upgraded.

Of the remaining Buffalo schools still in receivership, only B.U.I.L.D. was ordered to be taken over by someone from the outside after not making enough progress the past two years. In fact, 61 out of 63 receivership schools around the state showed progress, with B.U.I.L.D. Academy and a school in Rochester the only exceptions.

Cash, however, changed the leadership at the school last year and is confident B.U.I.L.D. is headed in the right direction — it just needed more time.

"We could make this an opportunity," Cash said. "It's not necessarily a bad thing."

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