BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Earlier this month, the State Education Department delivered an ultimatum to two Buffalo high schools: work with BOCES or face closure.
Monday night, parents gathered at one of the schools to discuss what it means for their kids. The Buffalo Public School District only has a few weeks remaining to come up with a plan for East High School.
The state's Deputy Commissioner of Education Ken Slentz came to Buffalo last week insisting that East and Lafayette High Schools have a program in place that will improve academic achievement in these low performing schools.
"The onus right now is on the district to pull together the stakeholders and pull together the parties, including BOCES, that need to be involved in to put that plan together," he said.
The ultimate decision on one of two plans lies with Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown. Both schools must either allow students to enroll in BOCES program of have BOCES take over management of the schools. But parents aren't happy with the plan, and the district had already been working with John Hopkins University to turn around the schools.
One parent said, "A decent term paper couldn't be created in the short time frame the state gave the district for improvement plans."
Another added, "They never say, 'We have this wildly successful idea to help your children, help us develop this program.' They want to jam it down our throats."
Dr. Brown says the schools have improved since working with John Hopkins, and the university may still play a role with BOCES going forward.
One recent graduate stated, "If East was to becomes a BOCES school, I feel it would not make the necessary changes that this inner city school needs, at least not now."
Another parent added, "Don't rely on his two options to change our schools. You know what's best for our schools. We put you where you are, we have faith in you, and I hope that you have faith in us."
The district has been unable to secure millions of dollars of federal funding available, partly because it has been unwilling to relinquish control of the management of its low performing schools to outside agencies willing to help. That has been one of the district's major failures, according to Sam Radford, who has organized parents who want to see achievement increased in these schools.
"They're not willing to let go of power. Their partners are not willing to let go of power. So whether that's the central administration or whether that is the union, nobody that's benefiting right now is willing to change anything," he argued.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation has protested the state's directives, saying they are heavy-handed.
The district must have a plan by August 12. In the meantime, it will continue to meet with stakeholders and get input from the community on what to do about East and Lafayette High Schools.
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