Five Buffalo schools have been awarded $4.5 million apiece in federal improvement grants – while another four schools’ applications were rejected, state officials announced.
Harriet Ross Tubman, Highgate Heights, Lydia T. Wright, BUILD Academy and International Prep each were awarded $2 million for 2013-14; $1.5 million for the following year; and $1 million for 2015-16, said state Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman.
“These state funds will bring programs and extended learning options where they are most needed,” Superintendent Pamela C. Brown said in an emailed statement. “Our goal is to bring all schools into good standing as we offer a world-class education to all of the students of the Buffalo Public Schools.”
The district has hired the Westminster Foundation to run Highgate Heights, in an arrangement similar to the one the district has with Johns Hopkins University to run Lafayette and East high schools. The foundation is an outgrowth of the nearby Westminster Community Charter School, which has been strongly supported by M&T Bank.
The other four schools will adopt what’s known as the transformation model, which is generally seen as more moderate than the restart model that Highgate Heights will use.
Details of the school reform plans have not been released by the district or the state Education Department. Associate Superintendent Debra Sykes said the four transformation plans would include enhanced professional development for teachers, expanded parental involvement, and increased partnerships with community groups.
Four other schools’ grant applications were rejected: North Park Middle, Hamlin Park Elementary, Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy and Waterfront Elementary. Although those schools did not receive the federal funding, they still must implement a reform plan, although not necessarily the exact plan they submitted to the state.
“The Buffalo School District must work with these schools to implement a whole-school reform plan through the support structures of the [school improvement grant],” Burman wrote in an email, “or the school innovation fund, or through a self-funded whole-school reform plan.”
This is the second time in the past year that Waterfront has submitted a reform plan that the state rejected.
If Waterfront failed to submit an approvable plan this time, State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. had said in interviews over the past year, he would revoke the school’s registration, meaning it would be forced to close. That was the same threat King had repeatedly made regarding Lafayette High School.
As turned out to be the case with Lafayette, it appears King does not plan to revoke Waterfront’s registration.
Sykes said district officials plan to resubmit the application for Waterfront as well as the other three schools in a second round of applications that the state Education Department has indicated it will make available sometime prior to the start of the 2013-14 school year.
She said that for the first time, state officials provided district officials with a points-based evaluation of each grant application, including specific feedback regarding what changes needed to be made to improve each application’s score.