Interpreters translated Tuesday night’s Parent Assembly meeting into half a dozen languages, including Somali, Arabic and Spanish.
School buses provided free transportation to parents from points in each quadrant of the city, to make it easier to get to the meeting at Performing Arts on Masten Avenue.
Cheese and crackers, tuna wraps, cookies and beverages were available free in the cafeteria, where “Ice Age” played on a large screen for children too fidgety to sit through the program in the auditorium.
Buffalo Public Schools officials did more than they ever had to support the districtwide parent meeting – and still, slightly more than 200 people showed up, in a district that serves 32,000 students.
The goal is to draw at least one parent or guardian from each district homeroom – potentially, more than 1,200 people.
Hutch-Tech, Performing Arts and International School 45 were recognized for having more parents in attendance than any of the other schools.
Parent leaders and district officials alike lauded the scores of parents who attended the meeting.
“This shows your commitment to your children’s success,” Superintendent Pamela C. Brown told those in the audience. “My vision is that through working together with you, with staff members, with the entire community, we will provide a world-class education for all children.”
Those who did attend Tuesday’s meeting heard from David Rust, executive director of Say Yes to Education Buffalo. He gave an overview of the services his group is putting in place in the district schools and reviewed the guidelines for the Say Yes college tuition guarantee.
Leaders of the District Parent Coordinating Council role-played a conflict between a parent and a principal, and talked about ways parents can try to improve communication in the schools. They also offered suggestions on ways parents can get involved.
Samuel L. Radford III, president of the parent group, outlined his frustrations with the lack of a teacher-evaluation plan, which stands to cost the district more than $50 million in lost aid unless the district submits a suitable plan by mid-January. He urged parents to sign petitions – one of them calling for the district to turn dozens of schools into charters, and another asking for students in failing schools to be transferred to schools in good standing.
Many of the parents who attended the meeting left disappointed.
Dozens of immigrant parents were unable to understand much of the program, despite the translation services. The translators identified themselves at the beginning of the meeting, then sat in various places in the audience, trying to translate to the people around them. But the speakers talked too fast.
“We didn’t have time to translate,” one of the translators told a parent after the meeting.
Some English-speaking parents said they had come to the meeting wanting a chance to be heard – but instead, they sat and listened for nearly three hours.
Soyenia Gibson, whose son is in fourth grade at Olmsted School 64, said she feels the District Parent Coordinating Council is focusing too much on students at low-performing schools. A few hundred of them requested transfers this fall to schools in good standing, including Olmsted. That pushed class sizes up at Olmsted and several other schools