In recent weeks the educational futures of students at Buffalo, NY’s East and Lafayette High Schools have become uncertain. After several failed attempts by the Buffalo Public School System (BPS) to create the conditions necessary to allow the Johns Hopkins University to implement a Restart model for the two schools, New York State’s Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. informed BPS Superintendent Pamela C. Brown in a letter on July 10, that the district would have to pursue other courses of action to create effective learning conditions for students at the two schools. The letter was in response to the BPS’s School Improvement Grant Restart applications for Lafayette and East High Schools.
“As I have written to BPS several times in the past years, the continued failure of Lafayette High School and East High School must be addressed. Far too many students have been left educationally abandoned, their futures cast into distress by the poor academic services they have received,” he continued going on to cite that both schools graduation rates have fallen to 23% (Lafayette) and 28% (East). Since the 2009-10 school years, the State Education Department has continuously identified these two schools as Persistently Low Achieving with steadily declining graduation rates.
According to Commissioner King’s letter, BPS had applied unsuccessfully three times to implement a federal intervention model at both schools but repeatedly failed. Because of the failure to secure a Federal School Improvement Award for these schools, both have operated under stop gap School Under Registration Review (SURR) plans which according to Dr. King, “have not been effectively implemented so that these schools are making the academic progress that SURRs are required to make. BPS has also been placed in Corrective Action for failing to provide school choice to students in Priority and Focus Schools as required by Commissioner’s Regulations.
Commissioner King subsequently directed the BPS to develop a revised SURR plan for each school for the 2013-2014 school years to the Commissioner by August 12, 2013. He further required that BPS as part of its revised SURR plans to take at least one of the following actions:
1) Enter into an agreement with the Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), or other BOCES, to provide Career and Technical Education (CTE) to any student at either school who wishes to enroll in a CTE program.
2) Enter into an agreement with Erie 1 BOCES, or other BOCES to serve as an Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) for these schools in the 2013-2014 school year, whereby the BOCES shall assume the powers and duties of the superintendent for purposes of implementing the educational program of the school, including but not limited to, making budgetary, staffing, curriculum, daily schedule and school calendar, and student discipline decisions.
As reported in Buffalo News, there have been meetings at each high school leading up the August 12 deadline, hosted by Superintendent Brown, for parents and students to discuss the issues and potential upcoming changes.
At these meetings, parents have communicated two main concerns; the safety of their children in suburban areas like Cheektowaga where the BOCES sites are located, and also that their children will be steered towards vocational curriculums instead of college preparatory curriculums.
The BPS originally wanted the Johns Hopkins University to be the EPO for both schools and had begun the preliminary steps with the University for the collaboration, until Commissioner King denied the district’s application for a grant to pay for Johns Hopkins work to turn around the two schools.