At least four principals will have to be moved out of low-performing schools next year as a result of the school reform model the School Board approved Wednesday night for several schools.
Some of those principals have complained to board members, threatening to pursue legal action to block their transfers.
“The principals are very concerned about their future,” said Jason McCarthy, who represents the North District.
The administrators contract allows the district to transfer principals, Superintendent Pamela C. Brown said. District leaders have chosen what’s known as the transformation model for eight low-performing schools: Harriet Ross Tubman; North Park Middle; Hamlin Park Elementary; Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy; Dr. Lydia T. Wright; BUILD Academy; Waterfront Elementary; and International Prep.
In addition, the district has chosen to hire the Westminster Foundation to run Highgate Heights, under the restart model.
All nine school reform plans are due to the state Education Department by Jan. 25 and are subject to Albany’s approval. The district is eligible for up to $6 million for each school over three years if the plans are approved.
Federal guidelines for the transformation model require that any principal who has been in a low-performing school three years or longer be moved.
That will affect the principals at Tubman, North Park, Badillo and International Prep, according to district officials. The principal at Hamlin Park is in her third year; it’s not clear whether the guidelines require that she be moved, according to Debra Sykes, assistant superintendent.
Brown said she would consider keeping in place any principal at a transformation school who has been there less than three years, but she said such a principal would not automatically be kept in place.
The issue of principal transfers as part of school reform is not new to Buffalo.
More than two years ago, then-Superintendent James A. Williams refused to move three principals out of low-performing high schools as part of the transformation model. That prompted the state education commissioner to come to Buffalo and have a private conversation with Williams, prompting Williams to reverse his position.
This time around, the superintendent supports moving the principals.
“Sometimes it is beneficial for the leader and for the school to have a change,” Brown said.
Two board members, Sharon Belton-Cottman and Mary Ruth Kapsiak, voted against the school improvement plans. Both said they felt they had not been given enough information.
Brown told the board in a committee meeting last week that the district had to submit reform plans in January for nine of 16 low-performing schools and that eight of them would use the transformation model.
Brown said she told the board officers several weeks ago which nine schools would submit plans. She chose the nine schools in the most dire need of help, she said.
The district will have to submit reform plans for the remaining seven low-performing schools next year.