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Community meetings on the ed commissioner's mandate begin today

The Buffalo school district will hold two community meetings, starting today, to seek the public's opinion regarding the mandate from State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. that two struggling high schools, East and Lafayette, partner with Erie 1 BOCES.

At last Thursday's board meeting, members discussed the possibility of Johns Hopkins University continuing to work with both schools and having BOCES provide vocational instruction. The board is expected to make a final decision on July 31.

Today's meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in East High School. The next meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Lafayette High School. The News will cover both community meetings. 

East High's eye-popping graduation rate etc.

During Thursday night's special school board meeting, Superintendent Pamela Brown gave a 15-slide PowerPoint presentation that, among other things, provided a more detailed snapshot of East and Lafayette high schools.

Among the most interesting stats she listed is East High School's preliminary graduation rate for 2013 -- 47 percent. That's a monster increase given the school's reported 2012 graduation rate of only 27 percent (the district listed 30 percent on its graduation data slide but that's not what the state reported). UPDATE: East High School Principal Casey Young said today that the 47 percent graduation figure for June is accurate and will increase after summer school ends. Lafayette had a much thinner graduation rate gain of 23 percent, up from 21 percent.

Continue reading "East High's eye-popping graduation rate etc." »

Meeting blog at 4 p.m.: Buffalo School Board, including talk of losing turnaround grant money

The Buffalo Board of Education will meet at 4 p.m. at Waterfront Elementary School to discuss the directive from the state education commissioner requiring Lafayette and East high schools to partner with Erie 1 BOCES. (See previous timeline post.) The board will also take action on a vocational program partnership with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Timeline of school district failure

LATEST UPDATE: The most accurate version of this timeline (though not nearly as pretty) can now be found by clicking here.

It's always a pleasant surprise when someone can hand you a piece of paper that succinctly tells you everything you need to know. That was the case when Buffalo board member James Sampson sent me this two-page timeline that outlines repeated failures by the Buffalo school district to submit appropriate school turnaround plans for Lafayette and East high schools.

I asked the State Education Department to vet this timeline and they responded this morning, saying they found it generally accurate. Sampson said he's already shared this with all the board members. I expect it will be a point of discussion at this afternoon's 4 p.m. board meeting at Waterfront Elementary School.

Continue reading "Timeline of school district failure" »

Buffalo school in Forbes Magazine - really!

Anyone flipping through this month's issue of Forbes Magazine may have come across a surprisingly familiar looking building -- Grover Cleveland High School.

The school, which now houses International Prep on the West Side, wasn't part of any school ranking list of popular schools for the rich.

Continue reading "Buffalo school in Forbes Magazine - really!" »

State Ed Department keeps Buffalo scrambling

On the heels of the state education commissioner rejecting the Buffalo school district's application for state turnaround grant money and requiring Lafayette and East high schools to work with BOCES, the state also issued a letter Monday demanding more information regarding its corrective action plan.

The district's plan was supposed to clearly articulate how the district intends to accommodate all parents whose children attend an underperforming school and want transfers to schools in good standing with the state. The state found the plan to be insufficient and wants the district to draft a more detailed one.

Continue reading "State Ed Department keeps Buffalo scrambling" »

Response to Commissioner King's "relentless attack"

We received many responses to Commissioner John B. King Jr.'s letter stating that because of the failure of the Buffalo school district to submit an acceptable application for school turnaround grant money for Lafayette and East high schools, and because of the "continued failure" in these schools, the district must partner with BOCES to provide instruction. The decision by King throws former plans for the schools to partner with Johns Hopkins University into doubt.

I was out of the office on Friday, but School Board Member John Licata sent me an email weighing in. He wanted to know how requiring students to take how vocational classes at BOCES is going to help these high schoolers in passing their Regents diplomas in core academic areas. He also had specific questions about the impact of BOCES on Lafayette High School, where the majority of students are immigrants and refugees and have difficulty with the English language.

Continue reading "Response to Commissioner King's "relentless attack"" »

Education commissioner does some straight talking

Sometimes, as a reporter, you just can't write fast enough. That was the case when State Education Commissioner John King called regarding his letter to the district. The letter demands the district partner with Erie 1 BOCES to provide educational services to high school students at Lafayette and East high schools.

At times clearly exasperated, King used words like "terrible" and "abysmal" to describe the achievement levels at both schools, despite what district and school leaders have described as sincere efforts to improve.

Continue reading "Education commissioner does some straight talking" »

Meeting blog at 5:30 p.m.: Paladino to propose multiple resolutions to Buffalo School Board

The Buffalo Board of Education is holding its first regular meeting with new board members Carl Paladino, Theresa Harris-Tigg and James Sampson. Paladino has submitted 32 issues/resolutions that he intends to raise at the meeting. See this past Monday's post for more details. The News will live blog the meeting here from start to finish. Click here for a copy of the agenda.

Board President Barbara Nevergold sends response memo to Paladino how she recommends the board process all of Paladino's resolutions and issues.

"Alarmed" music foundations bang the gong

Music foundations like VH1 Save the Music and Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation (named after a great movie that everyone should see, by the way) are refusing to donate another flute, clarinet or drum set to Buffalo Public Schools unless the district pledges to reinstate band/orchestra programs at the 14 schools that may be losing them next school year.

We've written a great deal on this topic as the city school district scrambles to find ways to restore instrumental music cuts in the face of huge community opposition. It's interesting to see national music organizations rallying, too.

Continue reading ""Alarmed" music foundations bang the gong" »

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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 |