Proposed cost-saving mergers and consolidations in the Buffalo Public Schools vexed some teachers, parents and community members at Wednesday night’s School Board meeting.
At issue are plans to combine International Prep and Middle Early College, two fifth- through 12th-grade schools, and a plan to consolidate all of the current high school football teams in the district into four teams that would be carved out based on geography.
John F. Abrams, a city police officer and father of a Bennett High School student, told the board that too many young people who could benefit by participating in high school athletics will slip through the cracks if the board approves a realignment.
“Now, if you do this consolidation, sure it makes financial sense, but each one of those cracks comes with a price. What I mean by that is that some students are going to be locked out,” Abrams said. “What’s going to happen to those students? They’re the same ones I’m going to see on the streets when I go to work tonight.”
The board did not take up the issue at Wednesday night’s meeting. Board President Mary Ruth Kapsiak said the matter will be dealt with in committee meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Still, a week after Athletic Director Aubrey Lloyd released the 14-page proposal, controversy continues. In his report, Aubrey cited difficulties that city schools have had joining their public school counterparts in the suburbs in Section VI Federation football, partly as a result of low participation and players inconsistently attending practices or games.
Robert W. O’Connor, former head coach at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and now an assistant at Bennett, disputed contentions that there is a lack of student interest in Buffalo’s football program. “I think the football program needs more time to be looked at,” he said. “People think that it’s not successful. That’s not necessarily true. Our second year at Bennett, we went to the semifinals with Sweet Home. Now, Sweet Home hasn’t been beaten by any team in Western New York in the last five years, and we came within a minute of going to the finals. … We got beat, 18-14.”
Meanwhile, several teachers and parents from International Prep and Middle Early College objected to plans to merge the two schools in September.
Craig W. Puffer, an art teacher at International Prep, gave a PowerPoint briefing in which he said the state’s system of recording graduation rates penalizes schools such as International Prep, which have a higher percentage of limited-English-proficiency students than most others in the district. After the 2010-11 school year, “we had 31 limited-English-proficiency students in our class, and 58 percent of them graduated,” he said.
“The district total is 22 percent, … but this means that 44 percent of all the limited-English-proficiency students who graduated from our district that year came from our school. Now, granted, we have our problems. Granted, we need to do a lot of work. But on the other hand, in terms of working with international students, we are the best school you have. Period. There is no better school.”
The board unanimously extended for three more years the charter for Enterprise Charter School.