District officials are still waiting to hear back from State Ed on the improvement plans submitted at the end of December for seven low-performing schools.
Associate Superintendent Debra Sykes says she expects a decision sometime in early or mid-March on the plans for Futures Academy, Buffalo Elementary School of Technology, Waterfront Elementary, Bilingual Center School 33, Drew Science Magnet, East High School, Lafayette High School.
These are the plans, remember, that involve hiring outside groups for four of the schools and replacing half the staff and implementing other changes at three.
And the district is waiting to hear how many of the four possible new PLA schools do end up getting that designation: Pantoja, Lovejoy Discovery School 43, Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy and Grabiarz.
Sykes says she has started meeting with parents and staff at each of those schools to find out which of the four federal improvement models they want to implement.
She seems to be anticipating less drama over the decisions this year. Why? Because the way the federal government's rules work, if all four of those schools do get designated as persistently lowest achieving, then two of them could use the transformation model. That's generally considered the model that requires the least amount of change -- the staff stays in place, and if the principal has only been there a year or two, the principal can stay in place, too.
Grabiarz, Sykes said, might already meet the requirements for a turnaround model -- replacing half the staff -- because that school merged students and staff from Grabiarz and from Campus West, which closed in June 2011.
So if two of the four schools use the transformation model, and Grabiarz uses turnaround, then only one other school would have to use either turnaround or hire an outside group to run it, Sykes told the District Parent Coordinating Council this week.
All of Buffalo's first six PLA schools are already using the transformation model: MLK, International School 45, and South Park, Bennett, Riverside and Burgard high schools.
Sykes says it's too soon to see any results in terms of improved test scores from the transformation efforts in those schools.
"Last year, the [school improvement grant] monies didn't come until November, then we didn't get the people in place until December or January, and then the tests were in May," she said.
Which prompted Sam Radford to ask: "So we won't know whether the transformation model works until after we have to make another decision on whether to use transformation again?"
"Right," Sykes said.
- Mary Pasciak