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Why the state rejected plans for one Buffalo school

When the state approved six out of Buffalo's seven school improvement plans recently, it also rejected one: the plan to hire Canisius College, in partnership with Fordham University, to run Waterfront Elementary.

At the time, though, state Education Department officials did not offer any details whatsoever on their rejection of the Waterfront plan.

The plan, in a nutshell, called for data-driven instruction to establish high academic expectations for all students.

The plan included 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. (Here's the full plan, if you're interested in the details.)

Why did the state reject it?

State Ed spokesman Tom Dunn recently offered this explanation when I asked:

The Educational Partner Organization (EPO), Canisius College, did not propose a Restart plan that provided SED with confidence that the EPO had the capacity to ensure dramatic student gains at the school. Specifically, the plan lacked detail regarding important implementation activities and the EPOs strategy for accomplishing them.  

It was unclear what the type and intensity of the intervention by Canisius would involve; and at the same time, the type and intensity of Fordham's involvement was judged to be inadequate to support the plan proposed.

When the EPO (educational partnership organization) option was rolled out for turning around low-performing schools, there was much talk about getting local colleges and universities involved in the efforts.

So far, that hasn't worked out too well.

Canisius wasn't the first local college to submit a proposal to run one of the low-performing schools -- and be rejected.

Last year, Buffalo State College submitted a plan to turn around Lafayette High School. After much deliberation, the School Board endorsed the plan and sent it into State Ed -- which rejected the plan, saying, among other things, that the district didn't have enough of an infrastructure in place to support EPOs.

And a few months later, when the district got another chance on the Lafayette plan, Buffalo State submitted a proposal again, but the School Board selected a plan from Johns Hopkins University instead.

- 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.

@denisejewellgee |

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.

@BNschoolzone |

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 |