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What will the next round of school turnarounds look like in Buffalo?

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.

Lovejoy DiscoveryAnd 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

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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.

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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 |

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.

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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.

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