The New York State Education Department has committed to parent power in Buffalo, New York — enough so that it wants the Buffalo School District to provide proof that they solicited meaningful feedback from parents on their comprehensive education reform plan. The pressure on the district to provide such proof came from the District Parent Coordinating Council, who claim that Buffalo officials will be unable to show much, since they refused to work with parents in the first place.
If Buffalo is unable to meet the demand, its reform plan, which would have qualified the district for up to $20 million in federal education funding, will be rejected and will need to be completely reworked.
The conflict between district officials and the DPCC is not new. According to Sandra Tan of the Buffalo News, the parent organization repeatedly warned the Board of Education that they were violating state rules by moving ahead with the application prior to seeking parental input. Board members voted to continue despite the warnings, and as a result the state education authorities have now had to get involved at least twice.
The first round went to the DPCC when the state ruled that Buffalo officials adopted a student transfer plan without consulting the parents, and demanded that the city revise it.
In a letter Friday, Roberto Reyes, a director in the state Education Department’s Office of Accountability, said the state says it can “find no evidence that the DPCC was consulted” in the creation of the district’s comprehensive improvement plan or individual school improvement plans.
He added that he is also concerned about allegations by Radford that the district did not collaborate meaningfully with the parent council in the submission of the federal grant application that is subject to approval by the state.
Reyes is requiring the district to provide written evidence by Oct. 1 that it collaborated with the parent council in creating the comprehensive improvement plan and the federal grant application. If the state determines that the district has not met the requirement for parent involvement, the district will be required to consult with the parent council and resubmit all documents by Oct. 22.
Buffalo Superintendent Pamela C. Brown disputed assertion by DPCC president Samuel L. Radford III that parents had no voice in the reform plan. According to Brown, DPCC was heavily involved in the development of the five-year strategic plan which served as the basis for the comprehensive improvement plan submitted to the state.
Buffalo was one of New York’s districts required to put together such a plan because a large number of its schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.
As for the consolidated grant application, which is necessary for the disbursement of federal Title I antipoverty money and other federal grant funding, Brown said she personally made repeated overtures to the parent council to gain its input and to sign off on the application.
Radford said her outreach was too little too late and that her contact with him was preceded by an “insulting” meeting by central office staff on Aug. 12 in which DPCC parents were called in to listen to four verbal presentations regarding the mammoth grant application but were not given any presentation documents or handouts, were denied a copy of the actual draft grant application, and were not allowed to ask any questions until the very end.