State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. informed the Buffalo Public Schools late Monday that its turnaround plans for East and Lafayette high schools still aren’t good enough.
He’s now commanding Buffalo school administrators to hustle to Albany this week so they can sit side-by-side with state officials “to complete their submission with on-site guidance and technical assistance” from the state Education Department.
He referred last week and in his Monday letter to the “extraordinary” and “extensive” guidance already given to Buffalo school administrators over the past few weeks regarding the high school plans. He then made it clear that long-distance communication is insufficient for Buffalo school leaders to put together an acceptable plan for state consideration.
“As you know, I am acutely aware of the urgent need to ensure that students at East and Lafayette High Schools be made to wait no longer to receive an education that readies them for college and careers,” King wrote.
In his letter, he laid out five pages of corrections that he requires in order for the turnaround plans for Lafayette and East – both schools with low graduation rates – to be approved by the state.
King gave the district until Friday to resubmit its turnaround plans for the two high schools. School leaders are expected in Albany on Thursday.
If the plans are not approved after they are resubmitted Friday, King repeated threats he has previously made against the district. “I will consider requiring BPS to enroll all East and Lafayette students in schools in good standing, and/or recommending to the Board of Regents that the registration of these schools be revoked,” he stated.
In addition, King said the recently resubmitted school turnaround grant applications for Buffalo Elementary School of Technology and Highgate Heights School 80 are unacceptable and also in need of further revision.
Without the revisions, BEST stands to lose the continuation of millions of dollars in federal school turnaround grant money, and School 80 may receive no turnaround grant money at all, he said.
The state’s problems with the Lafayette and East turnaround plans, however, are far more extensive than those for BEST and School 80.
A chart that accompany’s King’s two-page letter lists 20 plan deficiencies. Both plans would have Johns Hopkins University serving as the lead educational supervisor for both schools, with authority similar to that of the superintendent.
The deficiencies include:
• Citing Johns Hopkins’ plans to increase teacher planning periods and extend the school day without providing evidence that this is supportable in light of the district’s contract with the Buffalo Teachers Federation.
• Not listing how many seats are available at Erie 1 BOCES to provide career and technical education services to Lafayette and East students.
• Lack of clarity regarding if/how Johns Hopkins’ plan to keep students from falling behind through the use of an “early warning” assessment system will work.
King has repeatedly suggested that the Buffalo Public Schools “lacks the capacity” to submit acceptable plans to turnaround its lowest performing schools.
State Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn said the commissioner is expected to rule on the district’s student transfer plan later this week.
Superintendent Pamela Brown issued a statement in response to Monday’s letter from King, which was released late in the afternoon.
“Members of my staff will make themselves available to complete all plan applications to fulfill the requirements of the state Education Department in order to bring School Improvement Grant funding and extra supports to the above mentioned schools for the benefit of the students who attend them,” she stated.
“As the district continues our efforts toward achievement in Focus and Priority Schools, it is our goal to ensure that each child receives a world-class education and that all of our schools become Schools in Good Standing.”