The first quarterly update filed by Buffalo’s distinguished educator doesn’t exactly give the school district high marks, but it does verify what a lot of people already suspected, and that is that new Superintendent Pamela C. Brown still has a lot to prove. She’d better hurry.
A joint effort by Brown and Distinguished Educator Judy L. Elliott, the 19-page report is an outline of contradictions.
Elliott basically sees conditions hardly changing since Brown took the helm back in July and, worse, few plans in place to address upcoming grant shortages, attendance gains that may have been inflated due to a new attendance-tracking system, principals who are not required to attend training that has been provided and a district about to lose several million dollars a year in federal grants with no clear plan to compensate for the loss.
Brown sees things differently. She points to progress in key areas such as student attendance in the 28 lowest-performing schools, short-term suspensions, higher Regents exam scores and more eligible high school seniors applying to college.
Signs of progress are evident and Brown may have played a larger role than most would know in getting to those better statistics, but her role is unclear, partly because of her reluctance to share. By all accounts, she has been somewhat withdrawn in her approach and while that might be a refreshing change from her bombastic predecessor, Brown should want to press her case more loudly.
Meantime, the entry of Say Yes to Education and the promise of a fully paid college education after federal assistance has started to sink in with parents and students. It’s a huge motivating factor in getting those eligible seniors to apply to college.
And Say Yes, along with the Oishei Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, have collectively donated more than $550,000 toward a contract with a consulting firm to help Brown determine how to restructure the central office.
It’s a huge task that needed tackling from the beginning of her time here. Let’s hope the services of an interim deputy superintendent, provided by the consulting firm, help Brown in that restructuring process.
Elliott found more knocks against the status of the district than Brown would obviously prefer. The superintendent should defend herself, but Brown has to reflect on the number of criticisms the distinguished educator found. As Elliott said, “The principals will tell you: ‘Rome is burning.’ That’s a quote they use all the time in meetings.”
Brown’s job is to change that quote.
And it should be the job of those serving the public to share information on the status of the school district. It took two months and constant requests by The News to the state Education Department before the report was finally released.
The reason for the delay is unclear, but what is clear is that the State Education Department shouldn’t be so reluctant to share with the public the findings of a much-anticipated report by a highly compensated expert.
Elliott’s opinion about the direction of a beleaguered urban school district with a 50 percent graduation rate and under the direction of a new superintendent is critically important. Follow-up reports should be promptly released.
Read the first quarterly update here.