A few parents from Waterfront Elementary School were among the dozen or so people who attended an informational session Tuesday evening about a proposal to turn Waterfront and East High into charter schools.
Some of them said they support the charter plans; some said they don’t.
Mostly, though, the parents just wanted answers. They had been hearing various stories about what would happen if their child’s school became a charter, and they wanted to know what was true.
Andrea Hutchinson had heard that although admission preference would be given to current students, they would not be guaranteed a seat.
“My daughter just started kindergarten. I don’t want to reapply,” she said. “I worry about parents whose kids don’t get in.”
“If you want your child to stay at Waterfront, she is guaranteed a spot,” said attorney Steven Polowitz, who is working with Chameleon Community Schools Project, the Buffalo-based organization that has submitted charter plans to the state for the two schools.
“I wanted to hear that word, ‘guaranteed,’ ” Hutchinson said.
Sharon Turner has an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old at Waterfront. While she is active at the school, she said, many parents are not.
“What are you planning on doing as a charter school to get parents more involved?” she asked.
“We’ll create a welcoming atmosphere from Day One. You have to start where you’re welcomed into the classroom, you’re welcomed into the building,” said Amy Friedman, one of the leaders supporting the proposed charter schools. “We’ll have something like a principal’s advisory group, where the principal acts on what parents bring to that person.”
Other questions and answers included:
• How will teachers be chosen? There would be three rounds of hiring, Polowitz said. The first would be open to Waterfront and East teachers; the next, all Buffalo Public Schools teachers; and the last, open to all teachers. Any teacher hired would still have to meet the qualifications.
• What would the charter school to do attract current teachers to remain? “We want to give teachers the opportunity to work in a school that is in good standing and will do fantastic things for kids. We want to retain teachers who are fabulous,” said Valerie Nolan, who works for Chameleon.
• How would Chameleon help refugee parents who don’t speak English navigate the application process to keep their children at Waterfront? Journey’s End Refugee Services would be hired to help communicate with those parents, Nolan said, and the school would have one full-time parent liaison whose job would be to serve refugee parents.
Parents who were at the meeting gave varying estimates of whether most Waterfront parents support or oppose the charter plans.