Two Buffalo schools, International Prep and Middle Early College, would merge in September at the former Grover Cleveland High School site on the West Side under a plan put together by district administrators.
Both International Prep and Middle Early College are struggling academically, according to David Mauricio, a community superintendent who presented the plan to the School Board on Wednesday.
“Goals for both schools have not been realized,” he said.
Students in the merged program would benefit from more modern facilities – renovations at Grover will be completed in the next several months – and from additional resources that are expected to flow from a school improvement grant.
International Prep is eligible for up to $6 million over three years because of its designation by the state as among the 5 percent lowest-performing schools in New York.
At International Prep, 30 percent of the Class of 2012 graduated, down from 47 percent for the Class of 2011, Mauricio said.
More than one-fourth of the students at International Prep are immigrants who knew little to no English when they arrived in the United States.
Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman, who represents the Ferry District, said the school has not been receiving the resources it needs to adequately help those students.
“The services I’ve seen in the school disappointed me in a big way,” she said. “It made me sick.”
The school is designated as a College Board program, meaning, in part, that it is supposed to offer advanced placement courses to its students. But no AP courses have been offered there in the past two years, Mauricio said.
Middle Early College reported a higher graduation rate: 66 percent for the Class of 2012, Mauricio said, down from 74 percent for the previous class.
Middle Early College is designed to provide students with the chance to earn an associate’s degree, which they complete during a fifth year, after they receive their high school diploma. As it’s currently set up, students take classes at the Erie Community College city campus.
The school is succeeding in having students enroll in college courses – nearly all the seniors do, Mauricio said. But students generally are not performing well in those classes, he said.
Students in the Class of 2011 had an average GPA of 1.85 – below the 2.5 required at many schools to transfer into a program, officials said.
District officials had previously looked at housing International Prep and Middle Early College in the Grover building, but maintaining each of them as separate programs. Mauricio said on Wednesday that district officials decided logistical challenges made that unworkable.
“Having two master schedules and sharing the cafeteria and other common spaces, it would not work,” he said.
The merged program would have some sort of international focus – perhaps international relations or international business – and also provide students with the chance to take college classes. Grover is big enough to accommodate all the students from both schools, Mauricio said.
The merger plan being floated would save money that’s already being spent, officials said. For instance, there would be one principal for the combined student population. Now, there is one at each of the two schools.
Superintendent Pamela C. Brown said she has not yet decided who the principal will be. One thing is clear, though: it will not be Kevin Eberle, the current principal of International Prep. Under federal guidelines for the reform model the district has chosen, any principal who has been in a school for more than two years has to be moved.
The board will need to formally approve the merger plan sometime in the next three weeks. The school improvement grant application for International Prep is due in Albany on Jan. 25.
District officials plan to meet with parents, students and staff from each of the two schools in mid-January to present the plan and answer questions.
Board President Mary Ruth Kapsiak said she wants to hold a special board meeting at some point before Jan. 25 for the board to deal specifically with the merger plan. No specific date has yet been set for that meeting.