I don't have a crystal ball that can see into State Education Commissioner John King's head. But King sounded a little skeptical while speaking with The Buffalo News editorial board last week. In regard to the ability for Buffalo Public Schools to submit an acceptable student transfer plan, and turnaround plans for East and Lafayette high schools, he said: "The core question is: Can Buffalo develop a clear, coherent and detailed plan of improvement and performance in these schools?"
He went on to rhetorically question if they could craft successful school turnaround plans for East and Lafayette high schools, execute legally appropriate contracts with Johns Hopkins and Erie 1 BOCES, and a craft school choice corrective action plan to enable students at underperforming schools to transfer to schools in good standing. Then he said, "Those are their responsibilities. Their constant attempts to raise new distractions doesn’t change their core work."
Regardless of whether he believes the district capable, he obviously isn't going to let district leaders continue to blame the state for not providing sufficient guidance. I understand State Education Department administrators worked with Buffalo district staffers through the weekend to try to assist Buffalo in developing a stronger student transfer plan - aka the "Public School Choice Corrective Action Plan" - that provides the ability for students in underperforming schools to transfer to schools in good standing.
Below is the detailed letter from Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz to Superintendent Pamela Brown on Saturday outlining the deficiencies in the school choice plan submitted by the district to the state on Friday. Slentz stated in his letter, "The Commissioner has told me repeatedly that he will only approve an aggressive and robust plan. Therefore, I cannot guarantee that even with the above changes, the Commissioner will approve the plan. But without these changes, I see no possibility of his approval."
Following Slentz's letter is the 30-page, school choice plan that was subsequently revised again in response to the state's critique and approved by the school board Monday. The yellow highlights on the document mark the revisions made in response to Slentz' letter. Were the changes sufficient? You be the judge.