When the state rejected Buffalo's application for $42 million to help turn around its seven lowest-performing schools, one of the reasons officials cited was Phil Rumore's refusal to support the application. The teachers union president said the district failed to involve the union in developing the grant application in any meaningful way.
So when Albany gave the district a chance to revise its application, Superintendent James A. Williams came looking for the support of the union. Rumore insisted that the district ask the teachers at those seven schools what they think their schools need. Williams said he would incorporate as many of the teachers' ideas as possible into the revised grant application.
So what do the teachers want?
A whole bunch of stuff for their students that has long been part of the suburban education landscape: enough textbooks so kids can take them home; electives that students actually find interesting; classroom equipment like microscopes, scales and graphing calculators; guest speakers; and field trips.
Oh, and Buffalo teachers say it would make sense to reinstate all those attendance teachers who were let go so early in Williams' tenure. Along with that, teachers say it would help to add guidance counselors, social workers and school psychologists to help students work through the plethora of problems that follow them to school.
Some of the other sensible ideas to help schools better serve a largely impoverished student body: keep the gym and pool open late, as a reward for kids who stay after school for academic help; let students' parents use the school library; and offer child care services at school for teen parents at risk of dropping out.
For those who want to see the unedited lists from the teachers at the seven schools, here they are.
Buffalo's revised $42 million school improvement grant application is due in Albany on Monday. Williams said last week he would have it finished by the end of September -- which means today. He said he would present the revised application to the Board of Education at a special meeting, possibly on Friday.
But Board President Ralph R. Hernandez says that's not going to happen. A number of Buffalo board members already are on their way to Baltimore for the annual conference of the Council of Urban Boards of Education, and even more of them (along with Williams) will head there in the next couple of days -- meaning there likely would not be enough board members left in town to hold a meeting.
Hernandez says he's hopeful that, in the absence of a meeting, Williams will forward a copy of the revised application to each board member, and that it will be every bit as good as Buffalo's kids need it to be.
-- Mary Pasciak