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The help from Albany that never arrived in 2011

Back in September, Regent Bob Bennett said the state would be sending help to Buffalo in the form of a "distinguished educator" -- a veteran educator to act as an adviser to the superintendent and sit as a nonvoting member of the School Board.

(Buffalo was one of about 10 districts in the state in line for such assistance, Bennett said.)

Here's a snippet of what I wrote at the time:

Bob Bennett“It’s a helper who will work with the superintendent, plain and simple. I think it’s an extra asset for Amber [Dixon] to use wisely,” said Regent Robert M. Bennett. “It’s not imminent, but I would hope by the end of the year.”

The state education commissioner has the authority to appoint a distinguished educator — someone with a track record of turning around struggling schools or working with low-performing districts— in any district that has not made “adequate yearly progress” for four years in a row.

Then, in October, King and Bennett both said a distinguished educator would be appointed by the end of the year. A primary objective, they said, was for that person to help the district put together school improvement plans that the state could approve:

King plans to appoint a "distinguished educator" to Buffalo in the next few weeks, in part to help the district put together turnaround plans. Time, though, is running short. Less than 2 1/2 months remain for administrators to craft successful plans.

Well, guess what?

2011 came and went. The district submitted improvement plans for seven low-performing schools.

And the commissioner still has not appointed a distinguished educator here.

When I asked King about it a few days ago, he declined to comment.

When I asked Bennett about it, he said he expected an appointment to be made soon.

It's interesting to note how tight-lipped State Ed is being about the entire process. SED advertised for applicants in the spring, with a mid-May 2011 deadline. State officials are supposed to post online a list of successful candidates. Back in September, an SED spokesman told me, "We are still in the process of finalizing the initial pool."

Well, four months later, that list still hasn't been posted.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

Rumore complains to the commissioner

Right around the time the district sent its school improvement plans to the state education commissioner at the end of December, BTF President Phil Rumore sent his own letter to the commissioner regarding some of those plans.

The state, remember, under former Commissioner Steiner said that it would have a hard time approving plans without sign-off from key stakeholders, including the teachers union. Now, under Commissioner King, the state says the pl Rumoreans just need to show that the union was consulted in the development of the plans.

Rumore made it clear that he opposes the turnaround plans -- which require replacing at least half the teachers -- that were submitted for Futures Academy, Drew Science Magnet and Bilingual Center School 33.

It's not clear to what extent, if any, Rumore's objections will affect the state's decision on the turnaround plans.

Some School Board members, though, are mighty concerned. I've heard some speculation among board members that Rumore's letter on the turnaround plans could have played into King's decision to suspend school improvement grant funds that were already approved for six other Buffalo schools for 2011-12.

I haven't heard any indication from Albany that that's the case, but the frustration level among some board members is running incredibly high.

Here's the letter that has caused considerable irritation in City Hall:

December 27, 2011

MEMO TO: John King, N.Y.S. Commissioner of Education, Members of the Board of Regents
FROM: Philip Rumore, President, BTF

RE: Buffalo Public School Turnaround Plans

First let me thank you and the Board of Regents for working with educators to develop the Educational Partnership Organization E.P.O. model.. The E.P.O. model provides some sanity in the otherwise insane Federal regulations.

The purpose of this correspondence is to provide an explanation as to the reasons the Buffalo Teachers Federation cannot agree to and cannot sign off on the Turnaround plans for Buffalo Schools #33, #37, and #59.

The reasons are as follows:

- While I represented the BTF on the screening committee for the E.P.O.s, neither I nor any officers (Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer) or members of the BTF staff had input into the development of the schools’ Turnaround plans prior to the plans’ approval by the Buffalo Board of Education. Indeed, to this day, I have not been sent a copy of any of the plans for review. [Note: Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon says union members at each building were included in the development of the plans, even if the union's leadership was not.]

- There was no significant involvement of each school’s three-member building committees, the teachers elected by the faculty at each school to represent them to the administration of their respective schools. The building committee consists of the Delegate Chair (lead delegate) plus two other teachers elected by the faculty

The responses of schools #33, #37 and #59 to the question “The School Turnaround Plan Committee that developed the Turnaround plan included which building committee members?” are listed as follows:


                                  School #33                     School #37                           School #59
Delegate Chair                     No                              No                       Only during some revisions
Building Comm.
Member #1                          No                              No                                     No
Building Comm.
Member # 2                         No                              No                                     No
Who selected the
Teacher members?        The Principal               The Principal            The Principal & Ass’t. Principal

- Once presented with the school Turnaround plans, each faculty voted against them. [Note: each school's site-based management team (consisting of teachers, administrators and parents) voted on the turnaround plan. The faculty in each school also voted on the turnaround plan, in a vote held by the BTF. The two votes are separate.]

The vote was as follows:

a) School #33
EPO - 31
Turnaround - 20

Please note that the Turnaround plan submitted to the faculty at School #33 stated that there was to be no transfer of 50% of the faculty. This was removed upon submission to the Board of Education thereby requiring the 50% involuntary transfer of teachers.
After learning of the removal of the original section of the school-developed plan that stated there would be no required forced transfer of at least 50% of the faculty, the faculty voted unanimously that the BTF should not agree to a variance of our contract to allow for the forced transfer of teachers at School #33.


b) School #37
For school-developed Turnaround plan (with 50% transfers) - 0
Against school Turnaround plan - 29

c) School #59
For the school-developed Turnaround plan (with 50% transfers) - 4
Against Turnaround plan - 27

- Although the District stated that the site-based teams at all seven schools voted on the Turnaround plans, please note:
a) The Board of Education and constituency organizations approved Site-Based Plan Document requires all decisions to be made by consensus not a vote. [Note: Dixon at a public meeting conceded that the process used "might not have been perfect," but said the intent was to get input from each individual building's team.]
b) Teachers at most schools were not elected by secret ballot as required.
c) In some schools, people from the community, who are not members of site-based teams, were allowed to “vote”. [Note: Dixon says the votes from non-members were not counted in the vote tally that determined whether to adopt the turnaround plan at each school.]

Regardless, the “vote” of the site-based teams was as follows:
School #33 - Unanimous for the E.P.O. First Hand Learning
School #37 - There was no “vote”.
School #59 - There was no “vote”.

- Buffalo Teachers believe that the federally-mandated forced transfer of at least 50% of the faculty is educationally unsound for the following reasons:
a) It blames the teachers for circumstances beyond their control e.g. state and federal
testing that does not take into consideration the extremely high percentage of English Language Learners (ELL) who speak limited (if any) English but whose scores are counted in a school’s “score”. Likewise, the number of Special Education students are counted in a school’s “score”.
b) It is destructive and disruptive to the students’ education at not only the Turnaround schools but also the schools from which teachers may be forced to move.
c) Forcing the involuntary transfer of at least 50% of the faculty is analogous to moving doctors, who are being forced to use procedures that are killing their patients, to other hospitals.
d) Involuntarily moving 50% of the teachers from each of the Turnaround schools is greatly different from the one or two teachers at schools who have accepted a voluntary transfer to a school that has a vacancy.
e) We have seen no validated studies that demonstrate that such a movement of faculty significantly improves the education of students.

- The involuntary transfer of up to 50% of the faculty at schools is a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the BTF and the District as is the mandating of an interview or similar process in order for some teachers to remain at a school. [Note: Dixon says the involuntary transfers would not violate the contract. She also says that she believes the number of actual teacher transfers necessary will be quite low -- less than a few dozen, out of 3,500 teachers in the district -- once the teacher ranks at each school are pared through naturally occurring events such as teacher retirements, voluntary transfers, and so on.]

A partial list of the contract sections violated are:
a) Article XIV, A – Teacher transfers
“A. A teacher may request transfer to another school by submitting a written request directly to the Associate Superintendent for Instructional Services. In evaluating such request, it will be necessary to
consider:
(1) That a balanced staff be maintained at each school;
(2) That the probationary teachers be expected to complete the probationary period in the school originally assigned, except where conditions seem to indicate that a transfer is desirable;
(3)That the wishes of the individual teacher be honored whenever possible.”
b) Article XIV,G
It is desirable that transfers and changes in assignments be on a voluntary basis whenever possible.”
c) The District, in violation of Article XIII and XX of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (C.B.A.), has not, as required by our contract, negotiated the Evaluation procedure of teachers that they have used and will be using to “screen” teachers who wish to retain their current positions at their schools.
d) The District in violation of Article XIV is forcing Federation Delegates, Alternates, Building Committee Members, and Executive Committee Members to re-interview to keep their positions at their school or be involuntarily transferred from that school.
e) The District in violation of Article XIV is involuntarily transferring teachers despite their wishes to remain in their positions, where there is no reduction in force, and is not basing said involuntary transfers on seniority.
f) The above cited evaluation and interview process and involuntary transfer of teachers is a violation of Article XXXVII Maintenance of Benefits. The BTF has not negotiated changes in the C.B.A. that are required by this provision of the C.B.A.
g) The District is in violation of Article XII,K. “No teacher shall be disciplined, reprimanded, reduced in rank or compensation or deprived of any professional advantage without just cause.”

Buffalo Teachers, as always, remain committed to working with you on initiatives that really help teachers teach and students learn.

King tells me it will probably be at least a couple of months before the state makes a decision on Buffalo's turnaround plans.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

The full story on those turnaround plans

There seems to remain a lack of information flowing out of City Hall to the public, despite some improvements in that department.

Consider the school improvement grant applications the district submitted at the end of December.

Four of these plans involve bringing in an outside group to run a school. Three involve replacing half of the teachers.

The district released some form of those four plans well before the School Board made the final decision on them. But it wasn't until more than two weeks after the board approved the plans that the district released the other three.

When I asked periodically in December for copies of those plans, I was told they weren't in their final form yet. If you follow that through to its logical conclusion, then the board approved the plans without seeing exactly what was sent to Albany for consideration. (The board did see some draft of each plan before it voted, but I don't know how close those plans were to their final form.)

As far as I know, the district still has not posted the three turnaround plans on its website. For those of you who are interested, here they are:

- The turnaround plan for Bilingual Center School 33, which features a dual-language immersion program

Futures Academy- The turnaround plan for Futures Academy, which features single-sex classrooms for students in fourth to eighth grade

- The turnaround plan for Drew Science Magnet, which would expand to pre-k through eighth grade

And, while the district does have the initial proposals from vendors for the other schools posted on its website, it does not have the final plans that were submitted to the state. Here they are:

- Johns Hopkins University would run East and Lafayette high schools. (Here's the plan for East and here's the plan for Lafayette.) The two proposals submitted by Johns Hopkins were virtually identical, word for word, aside from one $50,000 provision specific to the Lafayette plan to provide teachers with 10 days of training in working with immigrant students.

The university has an arm called Talent Development Secondary, which has been working with struggling schools for 16 years. Central to the approach is a research-based curriculum and extended class periods. Students take four 90-minute classes that each meet every day for a semester.

In tenth grade, each student enrolls in a career academy, such as finance, information technology, or health science.

- Canisius College would run Waterfront Elementary School. Canisius' plan draws heavily on its partnership with Fordham University, which has been working with low-achieving schools in New York City.

The plan for Waterfront calls for data-driven instruction that establishes high academic expectations for all students.

Plans call for making families and students in grades five to eight aware of high school and college options; setting educational goals; and accessing financial aid and scholarships to realize them.

- Research to Practice, a Long Island group, will run Buffalo Elementary School of Technology.

The group includes an assortment of high-profile names in education, including Manny  Rivera, former Rochester superintendent; Rudy Crew, former Miami-Dade County superintendent; and McGraw-Hill Education. It submitted proposals for four Buffalo schools, but an advisory committee did not recommend that the group be considered to run the other three schools.

The plan for BEST calls for developing an "individualized, data-based action plans for each student," then monitoring each student's progress in key areas.

The plan also calls for maximizing instructional time, increasing parental involvement, and better integrating technology.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

Put a student on the School Board?

Emerson High School senior Stephon Wright was among the more than one dozen people who applied for the at-large seat on the School Board in December.

"I think the students need more say in the policy," he told the board. "They need to be able to speak and to have a voice."

Stephon Wright4Wright offered some simple solutions to problems in the district. Probably the most memorable: his perspective on how to increase parent involvement.

"You know what I come to find out draws a lot of people? Food. We need to have movie night or chili night or something like that," he said.

His main theme? Everybody in the district needs to start working together better. He likened the district to a family.

"The district needs to bring people together," he said. "Like I said, food brings people together. Family eats together. Family does a lot of things together. If we're going to be family, let's work together."

Well, Wright was not selected to fill the seat, which went to Barbara Seals Nevergold. But he drew a lot of interest from a number of board observers, who found him to make a compelling case for the merits of having a student voice at the board table.

Wright has since launched an effort to have the board add a non-voting student member -- something that a number of other districts in the state have done in recent years.

The District Parent Coordinating Council this month voted to support the idea, and Wright this week provided the board with a draft resolution to add a student member for the remainder of the school year.

Will it happen?

Stay tuned.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

What happens when students are suspended

There's been a whole lot of talk lately about the number of suspensions in Buffalo and the push -- from the community and from central office -- to reduce that number.

One thing that's been largely overlooked -- but merits some attention -- is what happens when students are suspended.

After Jawaan Daniels' death in June 2010, former Superintendent James Williams announced an end to out-of-school suspensions for minor infractions. It turned out that what he meant was that he was going to change the way suspended students received their state-mandated instruction.

The law requires that suspended students receive two hours of instruction every day.

Until September 2010, suspended students in Buffalo were supposed to get "home instruction," meaning a teacher met them at a library or community center to teach them for two hours a day.

Supposedly.

But district administrators readily admit that that generally wasn't happening.

The bottom line was that many -- maybe most -- suspended students just were not getting any instruction while they were suspended.

The big change in 2010 was that suspended students started reporting to their school for two hours a day for what's known as alternative instruction.

High school students report from about 3 to 5 p.m. for alternative instruction. Elementary students report for two hours either in the morning or afternoon, during the school day.

Well, guess what? Many of them are not coming.

Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes estimates that 50 to 75 percent of students are showing up for alternative instruction. (Although some teachers I know peg that percentage quite a bit lower than that.)

Why?

Surely, there are many factors that play into the low attendance.

Many parents say the setup is unrealistic.

Elementary students who are suspended are not given transportation to or from their alternative instruction -- something district administrators acknowledge is an issue.

"People understand that the alternative instruction is a requirement," Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes said. "The district must do that to be complaint with state education law. But there is no requirement that the district provide transportation."

Suspended high school students, he says, can use their Metro pass to get to alternative instruction. Not so for elementary students, for whom the district does not provide a way of getting to alternative instruction.

"The issue is at elementary school," he said. "Parents need to bring the students and pick them up. That’s an untenable challenge for some of our families."

That is likely to be among the issues the district's advisory committee will review when it crafts policy recommendations for the School Board in February.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

Live blog of School Board meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Join me today for the School Board meeting at 5:30 p.m., when we're expecting a pretty big crowd to turn out to talk about student suspensions.

Here's the packet of personnel changes, contracts and other items for tonight's meeting.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

How many suspensions did your school have last year?

The district this week is running public hearings to get input about how to reduce the number of suspensions. About one in 20 Buffalo students were suspended last year -- but from school to school, the numbers varied dramatically.

In some schools, there were more suspensions than there were students. (Keep in mind that some students are suspended more than once.)

The numbers below indicate how many short-term suspensions (one to five days, assigned by the principal) each school had, along with the number of long-term suspensions (longer than a week, assigned by a district administrator) in 2010-11.

School number School Total students 2010-11 Short-term suspensions 2010-11 Long-term suspensions 2010-11 Total suspensions 2010-11
3 D'Youville Porter 685 10 16 26
6 BEST 670 317 30 347
17 Early Childhd Ctr 17 455 93 15 108
18 Pantoja 495 149 11 160
19 Native Am Magnet 510 155 9 164
27 Hillery Park 600 171 14 185
30 Frank Sedita 782 381 35 416
31 Harriett Ross Tubman 501 523 25 548
32 Bennett Park 948 65 18 83
33 Bilingual Center 33 537 112 25 137
37 Futures Academy 587 318 57 375
39 MLK 765 323 28 351
43 Lovejoy Discovery 554 211 14 225
45 Intl School 45 927 232 37 269
53 Community Schl 53 424 210 42 252
54 Blackman 503 125 14 139
56 Olmsted 56 629 58 18 76
59 Drew Science Magnet 607 371 31 402
61 Early Childhd Ctr 61 324 95 24 119
64 Olmsted 64 583 2   2
65 Roosevelt 392 27 1 28
66 North Park Middle 544 646 36 682
67 Discovery 630 53 8 61
69 Houghton 538 189 9 198
72 Lorraine 608 76 34 110
74 Hamlin Park 527 74 83 157
76 Badillo 673 287 44 331
79 Grabiarz 756 436 41 477
80 Highgate Heights 643 168 19 187
81 School 81 750 132 5 137
82 Early Childhd Ctr 82 481 4 5 9
84 Erie Co Health Ctr 78     0
89 Wright 901 98 41 139
90 Drew ECC 90 411 64 5 69
91 BUILD 660 398 85 483
93 Southside 1100 507 31 538
94 West Hertel 654 151 38 189
95 Waterfront 971 710 28 738
96 Campus West 756 258 24 282
97 Austin 350 156 12 168
99 Makowski 942 116 10 126
187 Performing Arts 996 206 37 243
195 City Honors 990 34 4 38
197 MST Prep 445 290 55 345
198 International Prep 506 124 50 174
200 Bennett 1134 599 122 721
204 Lafayette 654 112 21 133
205 Riverside 879 816 79 895
206 South Park 931 447 36 483
212 da Vinci 503 11 4 15
301 Burgard 714 724 172 896
302 Emerson 566 100 29 129
304 Hutch Tech 1352 19 27 46
305 McKinley 1340 341 116 457
307 East 720 440 148 588
350 The Academy @ Floss 82 2 30 32
351 The Academy @ 44 148 334 18 352
402 OTC 63 1   1
415 Middle Early College 370 31 9 40

 

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

Attendance improves in Buffalo schools; find your school

Last school year, the district commissioned what turned out to be an eye-opening study of student attendance that found that half of high school students missed 18 days of school or more -- and one-third missed at least seven weeks of school.

The landscape wasn't a whole lot better in the elementary schools. Forty-three percent of kindergartners missed 18 days or more, for instance.

Well, that study got district officials taking a closer look at attendance. Over the summer, they initiated automated wake-up calls to students who miss 10 percent of school days. More attendance teachers were added this fall at low-performing schools. And the district is about to take practices from other districts and pilot them at some Buffalo schools.

So far this year, attendance has improved across the district. Average daily attendance, through the end of November, increased from 88.9 percent to 91 percent.

Western New York Day Treatment saw a 12.5 percent increase, to 96 percent. At Riverside -- historically a school with one of the worst attendance rates -- average daily attendance increased from 69 percent to 80 percent.

Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes says he's waiting to get the results of a more thorough data analysis, which will drill down to indicate whether there's been improvement at each school in the percent of "chronically absent" students -- those missing at least 10 percent of school days.

"Comparing average daily attendance is necessary but insufficient," he said. "It doesn’t allow to dig deep into individual students."

For the moment, though, average daily attendance is what we have available.

While there has been improvement in most schools, there's still a considerable disparity.

Consider: at the district's alternative school, The Academy, on an average day, two-thirds of students showed up. At Riverside, Bennett and East high schools, about four out of five students showed up.

On the other hand, at City Honors, Olmsted 156 and Middle Early College, about 95 percent of students showed up on average.

Here's the complete breakdown, comparing average daily attendance in each school through the end of November 2011 to average daily attendance through the end of November 2010:

School number School Average daily attendance through 11/30/11 Average daily attendance through 11/30/10 Increase/decrease
3 D'Youville Porter 92.98% 92.09% 0.89%
6 BEST 92.38% 88.63% 3.75%
17 Early Childhd Ctr 17 90.26% 90.05% 0.21%
18 Pantoja 93.10% 89.96% 3.14%
19 Native Am Magnet 94.39% 90.77% 3.62%
27 Hillery Park 93.66% 92.75% 0.91%
30 Frank Sedita 92.65% 90.68% 1.97%
31 Harriett Ross Tubman 92.83% 90.63% 2.20%
32 Bennett Park 93.63% 92.66% 0.97%
33 Bilingual Center 33 91.90% 90.33% 1.57%
37 Futures Academy 90.29% 88.92% 1.37%
39 MLK 92.74% 89.22% 3.52%
43 Lovejoy Discovery 92.73% 91.13% 1.60%
45 Intl School 45 94.14% 92.00% 2.14%
53 Community Schl 53 91.50% 90.44% 1.06%
54 Blackman 93.47% 91.73% 1.74%
59 Drew Science Magnet 92.47% 91.64% 0.83%
61 Early Childhd Ctr 61 91.32% 91.29% 0.03%
64 Olmsted 64 95.94% 95.44% 0.50%
65 Roosevelt 91.95% 88.16% 3.79%
66 North Park Middle 92.90% 91.00% 1.90%
67 Discovery 95.78% 95.56% 0.22%
69 Houghton 92.42% 91.23% 1.19%
72 Lorraine 93.94% 91.33% 2.61%
74 Hamlin Park 91.65% 89.76% 1.89%
76 Badillo 90.43% 88.39% 2.04%
79 Grabiarz 92.91% 91.19% 1.72%
80 Highgate Heights 93.64% 93.32% 0.32%
81 School 81 94.67% 92.73% 1.94%
82 Early Childhd Ctr 82 91.57% 91.31% 0.26%
84 Erie Co Health Ctr 86.93% 87.79% -0.86%
89 Wright 93.73% 92.30% 1.43%
90 Drew ECC 90 90.38% 89.79% 0.59%
91 BUILD 92.42% 91.58% 0.84%
93 Southside 93.21% 90.62% 2.59%
94 West Hertel 91.80% 88.95% 2.85%
95 Waterfront 92.86% 90.29% 2.57%
97 Austin 92.70% 90.77% 1.93%
99 Makowski 93.09% 92.62% 0.47%
131 The Academy School 67.30%    
156 Olmsted 156 94.54% 92.25% 2.29%
187 Performing Arts 92.61% 90.38% 2.23%
195 City Honors 96.50% 95.03% 1.47%
197 Math Science Tech Prep 87.90% 89.31% -1.41%
198 Intl Prep 90.89% 85.30% 5.59%
200 Bennett HS 80.04% 71.93% 8.11%
202 Grover Cleveland      
204 Lafayette 84.14% 76.02% 8.12%
205 Riverside 79.53% 68.95% 10.58%
206 South Park 81.48% 79.99% 1.49%
212 da Vinci 93.08% 91.45% 1.63%
301 Burgard 81.24% 76.37% 4.87%
302 Emerson 89.79% 86.58% 3.21%
304 Hutch Tech 91.43% 89.59% 1.84%
305 McKinley 83.72% 76.18% 7.54%
307 East 80.48% 78.00% 2.48%
402 Occupational Trng Ctr 93.00% 92.62% 0.38%
407 WNY Day Treatment 96.06% 83.58% 12.48%
415 Middle Early College 94.88% 92.23% 2.65%
  Total 90.95% 88.91% 2.04%

 

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

Remember that $10,000 consulting fee Williams got?

When James A. Williams announced in August that he had decided to retire -- rather than sit back and watch the School Board pursue termination proceedings -- one of the sweeteners in his exit package was a $10,000 consulting fee.

Williams last day(The board also gave him $110,000, the equivalent of six months' pay, and $8,000 in unused vacation time. The vacation time was written into his contract. The six month's pay was, under the terms of his contract, owed to him only if he was terminated. Seeing as he retired, the board was under no obligation to give him the $110,000.)

At any rate, that $10,000 bought the district the right to keep Williams on speed dial -- to smooth the leadership transition.

The board paid Williams the consulting fee up front, regardless of how often district officials decided to consult with him.

Well, how many times has Amber Dixon dialed Williams' number since she took over in September?

None.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

Long-term suspensions spike in Buffalo schools; how did your school fare?

The latest suspension figures from the Buffalo Public Schools (those for 2011-12, through Nov. 30, 2011) show short-term suspensions district-wide about the same as they were the previous year -- and show a 71 percent increase in long-term suspensions, year to date.

Short-term suspensions are one to five days long and are assigned by a building administrator. Long-term suspensions are more than five days long and can be assigned only by the superintendent or a designee.

Students in hallwayAssociate Superintendent Will Keresztes attributes much of the increase in long-term suspensions to increased vigilance by principals in reporting cases of bullying and intimidation.

"Principals are reporting them to me instead of handling pretty intense cases of bullying under their own jurisdiction," he said. "As principals they are following my advice: have a superintendent’s hearing. This is one consequence of being a lot more vigilant about that type of behavior."

He also said he asked principals this year to report incidents that occur off campus, at bus stops and subway stations and so on.

"And we’re holding hearings on [off-campus incidents] because for the most part we believe they’re school-related," he said. "I think this year will reflect a little more robust reporting. It also gives us motivation to do as much as possible to reduce suspensions."

Keresztes noted that the 2011-12 data began tracking suspensions in July -- as opposed to September, when the 2010-11 data began tracking them. That accounts for an additional 30 to 40 suspensions in the current year's data, he said.

(Note: The district will be holding three public hearings to gather input regarding suspensions. They are at: noon Jan. 9 at Merriweather Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave.; 5 p.m. Jan. 9 at Waterfront School, 95 Fourth St.; and 6 p.m. Jan. 12 at Waterfront School.)

Want to know how your school fared?

Here are the details, school by school. Listed first are short-term suspensions, followed by a list of long-term suspensions.

Short-term suspensions more than doubled from the same period last year at eight of 56 schools for which information was provided. The biggest increase was at Hillery Park, where there were 38 short-term suspensions through the end of November 2011 -- compared to seven the year before during the same period.

School number School Short-term suspensions through 11/30/11 Short-term suspensions through 11/30/10 Change
3 D'Youville Porter 3 1 200%
6 BEST 58 39 49%
17 Early Childhd Ctr 17 21 15 40%
18 Pantoja 50 19 163%
19 Native Am Magnet 23 38 -39%
27 Hillery Park 38 7 443%
30 Frank Sedita 143 73 96%
31 Harriett Ross Tubman 154 69 123%
32 Bennett Park 62 32 94%
33 Bilingual Center 33 17 10 70%
37 Futures Academy   102  
39 MLK 80 46 74%
43 Lovejoy Discovery 51 54 -6%
45 Intl School 45 19 63 -70%
53 Community Schl 53 35 69 -49%
54 Blackman 32 38 -16%
56 Olmsted 56 22 15 47%
59 Drew Science Magnet 60 28 114%
61 Early Childhd Ctr 61 17 7 143%
64 Olmsted 64      
65 Roosevelt      
66 North Park Middle 92 131 -30%
67 Discovery 6 18 -67%
69 Houghton 27 60 -55%
72 Lorraine 10 63 -84%
74 Hamlin Park 15 20 -25%
76 Badillo 40 82 -51%
79 Grabiarz 119 113 5%
80 Highgate Heights 48 33 45%
81 School 81 15 37 -59%
82 Early Childhd Ctr 82      
84 Erie Co Health Ctr      
89 Wright 11 30 -63%
90 Drew ECC 90 21 6 250%
91 BUILD 76 61 25%
93 Southside 94 145 -35%
94 West Hertel 9 55 -84%
95 Waterfront 132 126 5%
97 Austin 38 25 52%
99 Makowski 31 18 72%
187 Performing Arts 47 31 52%
195 City Honors 5 4 25%
197 MST Prep 76 43 77%
198 International Prep 20    
200 Bennett 265 194 37%
204 Lafayette 28 26 8%
205 Riverside 311 346 -10%
206 South Park 77 97 -21%
212 da Vinci 8 2 300%
301 Burgard 192 195 -2%
302 Emerson 8 24 -67%
304 Hutch Tech   4 -100%
305 McKinley 103 111 -7%
307 East 217 188 15%
402 OTC 3    
415 Middle Early College 8 9 -11%
  Total: 3037 3022 0%

 

Long-term suspensions more than doubled, as compared to last year during the same period, at 21 schools. The biggest increase was at Lafayette, where there had been two long-term suspensions in the first three months of last school year, compared to 27 during that period in 2011-12.

School number School Long-term suspensions through 11/30/11 Long-term suspensions through 11/30/10 Change
3 D'Youville Porter 6 1 500%
6 BEST 7 7 0%
17 Early Childhd Ctr 17 4 2 100%
18 Pantoja 7 2 250%
19 Native Am Magnet 1 1 0%
27 Hillery Park 13    
30 Frank Sedita 18 9 100%
31 Harriett Ross Tubman 10 4 150%
32 Bennett Park 5 4 25%
33 Bilingual Center 33 6 3 100%
37 Futures Academy 13 9 44%
39 MLK 2 4 -50%
43 Lovejoy Discovery 5 4 25%
45 Intl School 45 1 14 -93%
53 Community Schl 53 7 5 40%
54 Blackman 2 1 100%
56 Olmsted 56 10 7 43%
59 Drew Science Magnet 11 5 120%
61 Early Childhd Ctr 61 4 4 0%
64 Olmsted 64      
65 Roosevelt 3    
66 North Park Middle 7 6 17%
67 Discovery 1 1 0%
69 Houghton 2 1 100%
72 Lorraine 17 15 13%
74 Hamlin Park 23 9 156%
76 Badillo 8 10 -20%
79 Grabiarz 9 10 -10%
80 Highgate Heights 6 3 100%
81 School 81 1 2 -50%
82 Early Childhd Ctr 82 2 1 100%
84 Erie Co Health Ctr      
89 Wright 5 4 25%
90 Drew ECC 90 2 1 100%
91 BUILD 24 16 50%
93 Southside 7 8 -13%
94 West Hertel 3 9 -67%
95 Waterfront 3 6 -50%
97 Austin 4 4 0%
99 Makowski 12 1 1100%
187 Performing Arts 10 5 100%
195 City Honors 1 1 0%
197 MST Prep 24 13 85%
198 International Prep 17 11 55%
200 Bennett 70 22 218%
204 Lafayette 27 2 1250%
205 Riverside 28 13 115%
206 South Park 22 10 120%
212 da Vinci 1    
301 Burgard 74 44 68%
302 Emerson 17 14 21%
304 Hutch Tech 14 5 180%
305 McKinley 46 21 119%
307 East 31 37 -16%
350 The Academy @ 40 10    
351 The Academy@ 44 10    
402 OTC      
415 Middle Early College 5 6 -17%
  Total 678 397 71%

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee | djgee@buffnews.com


Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes | tlankes@buffnews.com


Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone | stan@buffnews.com


Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB | dswilliams@buffnews.com

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