Turnaround Plans for Failing Buffalo Schools Hinge on Unions

Donald_Ogilvie,

The Buffalo School Board discussed plans to help four failing schools in the district at a special meeting — and that meeting became contentious.

Turnaround plans for MLK Multicultural Institute, Bennett High, East High, and Lafayette High schools were turned down at first by the board majority. The four buildings in question are out of time schools, meaning that every program and money source available from the State Education Department has been tried, and yet test scores at each school remain sub-par.  The only option left for these schools is a close and re-start unless they are able to submit a suitable plan, writes Mike Desmond for WBFO.

Schools that are closed would have one grade phased out each year as they graduate with no new grades being enrolled.  Those who are allowed to re-open must phase in an acceptable turnaround plan while each grade is phased out, writes Sandra Tan for The Buffalo News.

A plan for East High was discussed that would in effect turning the building into a community school open to the public 8:30am and 9pm and featuring four career tracks with specialization in health-related professions.

However, according to interim superintendent Donald Ogilvie, turnaround plans for the district were developed “in isolation” and without considering the budget of an additional $3,000 to $5,000 per student.

The majority then suggested that plans for those schools be linked to a possible new union contract, which would include longer school days and requiring teachers to teach an extra class at each of the four schools.  The deal would need to be approved by the union before it is accepted.

However, the proposal was not exactly discussed in detail.

The board instead unanimously approved a plan that had some parts stripped from it.  By the end of the meeting, the board had agreed to continue phasing out East and Lafayette.

“The whole part of the phase out is to not enroll a new ninth grade and then, gradually as students graduate, the old school becomes empty,” said Ogilvie.

In their place, new schools will be created.  An elementary school of arts is expected to be placed in the old MLK building in 2016.  Middle Early College will move into Bennett next school year.

In addition, Ogilvie needs to hand in a list of buildings available to house charter schools to the school board in one month – at the same time that he hands in a detailed plan for contract negotiations with area teacher unions.