Only 20 percent of the 2,200 students who asked to be transferred out of low-performing Buffalo schools will get their wish this coming school year.
The rest will have to wait until next year – or the year after that – while the school district implements a new three-year strategy to transfer students from low-performing schools to ones in good standing.
And even if kids are offered space at other Buffalo schools this year, their parents shouldn’t count on the move happening by the start of the school year in September.
It could take until halfway through the school year to sort out this year’s transfers.
This is the revised plan that the Buffalo School District was required to submit to the state Education Department by Friday.
“We will begin making offers next week,” said William Keresztes, chief of student support services. “We will be doing it as quickly as we can.”
Students who aren’t offered a transfer by then would have to reapply for the 2014-15 school year, he said.
“I deeply respect the honest feelings of parents who will be disappointed,” Keresztes said. “I can assure them this is a comprehensive and completely attainable plan so fewer and fewer parents experience that disappointment.”
The new plan also includes proposals to open two new schools, as well as closing two more and reopening them under a new approach to instruction.
The plan also recommends that Buffalo reach out to suburban districts for help.
The ink had barely dried on the document Friday when critics blasted it on several fronts.
Samuel L. Radford III, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council, was most critical of the plan’s short-term remedies, which would transfer only an estimated 300 to 500 students for this school year, or about 20 percent of the 2,219 who have applied to transfer.
“We have to deal with what’s going to happen now,” Radford said. “Nothing in this plan addresses ‘now.’ ”
School board member James M. Sampson, representing the West District, was critical of the plan’s short-range answers, too.
“I’m concerned that for the first year, in particular, they’re not doing enough to accommodate more kids,” he said.
In the long term, Sampson also criticized the report for not being aggressive enough to create more options, such as opening up failed schools as new charters.
“What are they going to do next year, if they get 5,000” transfer requests, he asked.
Sampson also was displeased that district officials handed the finalized plan to School Board members Thursday afternoon, without having sought input from the board.
A state spokesman on Friday said education officials are still reviewing the 26-page document.
But State Education Commissioner John B. King – who has been highly critical of Buffalo’s educational leadership – suggested he would not even consider the plan until the Board of Education signs off on it, two sources told The Buffalo News on Friday.
A special board meeting has been scheduled for noon Monday.
The state Education Department ruled in late May that, under federal law, students attending underperforming Buffalo schools have the right to be transferred to a school in good standing.
In response, the district submitted a seven-page document describing how it would handle transfers to one of the district’s 12 schools in good standing, but it was rejected by the state for lack of detail.
In addition to the waves of transfers, the new plan includes the following changes:
• Opening two new schools over the next three years with programs designed to assure student success.
• Closing two schools and reopening them with an entirely new approach to instruction.
This action is separate and unrelated to the improvement plan for East and Lafayette high schools currently under discussion.
• Collaborating with other area school districts to open up seats for the Buffalo transfer students.
• Creating “schools within schools,” or in other words, having more than one school in the same building, but under the leadership of a school in good standing.
• Expanding the capacity of schools in good standing, which the district will start doing in September to accommodate transfer students.
Buffalo Superintendent Pamela C. Brown called the plan a “product of close collaboration with the New York State Education Department.”
“The original plan was formulated with consideration of input from district parents and staff,” Brown said in the statement. “The plan submitted today was revised to reflect NYSED directives based on the original plan, in further consideration of State Education guidelines.”
“It’s a plan to violate the law,” Radford said.
“The law is very clear,” Radford said Friday. “You must move all eligible children who request a transfer. We’re very disappointed that the district is blatantly violating the law and blatantly violating the will of the parents.”
Claiming that the plan was submitted with no input from parents or the community, Radford cited the Buffalo School District’s own mission statement, “to collaborate with parents and the community to assure that all students acquire knowledge and skills to function successfully in society.”
“This plan totally violates the mission of the district,” Radford said. “They essentially went into a room and came up with a plan without any consultation with parents or community members.”
The leadership of the district, Radford added, doesn’t want to make a decision on this issue. Instead, those leaders want to put the decision back in the state education commissioner’s hands.
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