Buffalo Parents Seize Reins on Education and Student Health

Parents in Buffalo are stepping forward and making their voices heard on education reform, the Buffalo News reports. Earlier this week they showed up at the Buffalo Public Schools forum to protest impending schools closures and mergers, held a demonstration outside City Hall for more physical activity throughout the school day, and worked on ways to bring back arts education to Buffalo’s children by volunteering their time and skills in the classrooms and outside of them.

District administrators held the Building Consolidation and Usage Public Forum this week as a way to seek community feedback about school closures that would help the district make up some of the $51 million deficit it is facing next year. District representatives claim that such moves would be one of the only ways for the city to avoid layoffs in order to save money.

Yet parents who spoke – especially against specific closures and moves – said that the district was tinkering with a formula that was working for their children and by closing schools they were creating difficulties both for parents and for their kids.

Stephanie Rogers, whose son, Malik Albert, is a freshman at Middle Early College High School, objected to plans to move the school from its downtown Main Street location to School 8 at East Utica Street and Masten Avenue. Such a move would disrupt the stellar programs offered at the school, she said.

“The program is phenomenal. The kids love it. The staff is wonderful, and they get all the support they need. How can you do that to our children?” Rogers said.

Mary Grace Duggan, an English teacher at Middle Early, also questioned the reasoning behind the proposal, which would move students away from Erie Community College, where the high schoolers attend classes in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the same week, parents gathered on the steps of City Hall to demand that schools pay more attention to the physical well-being of their students. According to a recent nationwide survey, Buffalo students are some of the heaviest in the nation, and parents want schools to reverse that trend along with the one that saw 200 girls becoming pregnant while still in school just last year.

While officials say that they can not afford to give over instructional time to things like recess, parents who were protesting said that allowing children to expend excess energy would improve academic outcomes for everyone.

Recess wasn’t the only kind of extra-curricular activity drawing attention. In a column for The Buffalo news, Betty Flagler called on parents to put their time where their mouths are when it comes to arts education and volunteer at schools to provide students alternatives from the three Rs.

Motivation, attitudes and attendance are all positively affected when kids have the arts woven throughout their school curriculum, the group says. The first e-book cites that a student involved in the arts is four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair and three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.