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UB one of two applicants to take over at BUILD Academy

A familiar, trusted Buffalo institution has submitted a proposal to help turn around one of the city's struggling public schools.

The University at Buffalo's Graduate School of Education was one of only two applicants interested in taking over at BUILD Academy to improve the academic performance at the Pre-K to 8 school located on Fougeron Street on the city's East Side.

The other was REACH Educational Solutions, a New York City-based educational consulting company.

"I'm excited about both of these applications," Superintendent Kriner Cash said.

The state Education Department ordered the takeover of BUILD after years of poor academic performance, prompting the school district to seek potential candidates willing to serve as the school's "independent receiver." Applications were due Dec. 19.

The superintendent was still reviewing details of the two proposals this week, but needed to send a letter to state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia after Christmas indicating which direction the district was leaning. The state would have to sign off.

The proposal from the university included letters of support from both Satish Tripathi, UB president, and Suzanne Rosenblith, dean of the Graduate School of Education.

"There's some really exciting parts to it," Cash said. "Twenty-two faculty are prepared to be on board, swarm the school and help assist the school with its resources and expertise.

"They worked tirelessly on this," the superintendent said of the UB proposal. "I'm very pleased  that they have submitted an application. It's a good sign for us they want to help us. They want to help Buffalo."

While UB's Graduate School of Education applied to assume full authority at BUILD starting in 2018-19, it's more interested in being a partner with the school district, Cash said.

Cash hadn't delved deep enough into the REACH proposal to comment on it.

He said both applications had strengths, as well as some concerns, although in conversation with the education commissioner they are issues that can be worked through.

"I think she is excited about the UB partnership," Cash said. "It's unique. It has a lot of upside, but it could be quite expensive."

This is the first time Buffalo is testing out the state's receivership law.

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 BUILD was ordered to be taken over by someone from the outside after not making enough progress the past two years.


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