The School Board last night just could not seem to approve a plan for Lafayette High School.
Some board members supported the plan drawn up by principal Naomi Cerre. Some board members wanted to bring on Johns Hopkins University.
And neither side could get the five votes they needed.
Those who supported Johns Hopkins' proposal for Lafayette cited the university's national reputation and its track record in turning around low-performing schools. Those who supported Cerre's turnaround plan said it did a much better job of addressing the needs of the school's huge immigrant population.
And nearly everyone said they were troubled by the fact that Buffalo State College's proposal for Lafayette had been rejected by a district advisory committee. The college has a longstanding partnership with Lafayette, they noted, and it ought to have a guaranteed role in the school's future.
And for Lafayette, having no plan was tantamount to having the state pull its registration and close its doors -- which is what State Education Commissioner John King has repeatedly threatened to do if Buffalo manages to bungle the plans for Lafayette yet again. (Remember, Lafayette could have already gotten up to $4 million in federal aid, had the district initially submitted adequate turnaround plans.)
Things were looking pretty dire.
And so the board did what it tends to do at such times: take a break.
Board members disappeared into the backroom for what was supposed to be a five-minute break.
It turned into a 20-minute break.
And when the board reconvened, Board President Lou Petrucci announced that he'd received an email from a representative of Johns Hopkins saying that the university would be willing to work with Buffalo State.
I asked Petrucci after the meeting to forward me a copy of the email, and he did. The email came from Keith Frome, who works at King Center Charter School. He also runs a group out of Washington, D.C., called College Summit -- which is one of the partners that Johns Hopkins identified in their plan for Lafayette.
Here's the email that Frome sent to Petrucci:
Here's exactly what the email said:
I received the following email from Johns Hopkins tonight; I think it indicates their willingness to work with the existing staff and resources at Lafayette which would include working with Buffalo State, though the details of that collaboration would have to be worked out later:
It is critical to say before any final decisions are made that if a school has already undertaken turnover of up to 50% of their faculty and the Principal, which it seems like Lafayette has now done, there is no reason to require that to happen again. We would certainly not move in that direction or with that predisposition. Any personnel changes we would seek to make would be in partnership with the school and board leadership and only after sufficient time and data had accumulated to recommend such decisions. We have been in this situation before and this is our track record.
I hope this proves helpful in the deliberations. We very much want to be a transformation partner at Lafayette as well as East High Schools.
Thanks and give me a holler if you like.
Talent Development Secondary
Johns Hopkins University
2701 N. Charles St., Suite 300
Baltimore, MD 21218
After Petrucci read that email to the board, there was a revote on the Johns Hopkins plan for Lafayette. This time, the vote was 7-0 in favor, with Florence Johnson (an administrator at Buffalo State) recusing herself.
- Mary Pasciak