28 Jul

Sam Radford (716) 578-3571


 Parents make final appeal to Board of Education, Superintendent and

Buffalo Teachers Federation to do what is best for Students.

Resolve the contradictions: either teachers moving is musical chairs and brings chaos or is in their best interest. Either we don’t need the money to turnaround schools or we are one the poorest most underfunded districts in the country.


District Parent Coordinating Council representatives and Parents Reps, from the district’s Persistently Low Achieving schools met on Wednesday, July 27 to discuss concerns on district plans not to submit applications for all of seven of the eligible Schools Under Registration Review (SURR), and agreed to make a final appeal in advance of the July 31 deadline.  Before parents consider direct action, we want to make every effort to implore the district to work in the interest of children and families.

Two new developments since the last parent request have prompted the representatives to call on the Board of Education to call an emergency meeting with Regent Robert Bennett, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and BTF President Phil Rumore.

On July 15, 2011 – Congresswoman Slaughter issued a press release on her sponsorship of the ALL CHILDREN ARE EQUAL ACT (ACE) – HR 2485.  (graph below) http://www.louise.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2520&Itemid=100065.   In it she states that Buffalo is the 3rd most underfunded school district in the country under the current Title 1 funding formula.  The Congresswoman recognizes that Buffalo School District’s poorest and lowest performing schools do not have all the resources necessary to turn them around.

Parents agree with the Congresswoman and are concerned that the District is not applying for 8 million dollars in Federal School Improvement Grants for 4 of these Underfunded Title 1 schools.

On Tuesday an arbitrator ruled in favor the BTF regarding voluntary transfer of teachers. 590 (1 in 6) submitted requests for transfers.  Which by every definition would be a large scale MUSICAL CHAIRS of teachers in the district.  The Superintendent’s recommendation to move teachers from the 7 PLA schools would have affected a minimum of 50 and a Maximum of 200 teachers.  BTF President Phil Rumore would not support the movement of teachers in that case because he called it a game of MUSICAL CHAIRS.  Here we have potentially twice that number and the teachers are voluntarily initiating it.

Parents feel that the needs of the students at the poorest and lowest performing schools are being neglected and are calling on those who have the power to do something about it to act before it is too late. July 31st is the current federal deadline.  Regent Bennett has agreed to intervene with NYSED; if Congresswoman Slaughter can intervene with the US Dept. of Education, we can do something for the children who need it the most. With a one or two week extension by State and Federal officials we can do what is best for Children.

The mission of the Buffalo School District is PUTTING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES FIRST – TO ENSURE HIGH ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL. We are asking board members, our political and union leaders to live up to that mission. Putting us first means applying for needed resources for one the poorest and most underfunded school districts in the Country.

The arbitrator gave three reasons for the ruling in favor the BTF 1. Inadequate Planning 2. Lack of informed fiscal prioritizing 3. Past Practice. All of these issues are potentially applicable if the District does not apply for these resources for the neediest of our students and families. 1. Inadequate Planning – We had almost a year to prepare a plan for each of these schools – there is no acceptable reason why the district should not be able to develop an acceptable plan in a year. 2. Fiscal prioritizing – Can we really afford to pass up on 2 million dollars this years in one of the poorest most underfunded school districts in the Country.  How do we justify this to this year’s cohort of students who are not able to benefit from the a changed learning environment and increased resources. 3. Past practice – has led each these schools to being Persistently Low Achieving and put on the Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) list. What are we doing any differently this year if we pass up on 2 million dollars to make the radical changes the School Improvement grant calls for.  According to the U.S. Dept. of Education research, the currently recommended incremental changes have not worked in the PLA schools across the country.

If we don’t make this effort of behalf of the students who need it most – we are in fact intentionally doing what we know will not work and perpetuating the problems within our school district.  If all children are equal, we are asking that the poorest and lowest performing students get the same treatment and benefits as our highest performing and wealthiest students–schools that ACHIEVE!


Parents at failing schools meet to discuss district’s failure to submit turnaround plans

13 Jul



Parent Leaders from Buffalo’s Persistently Low Achieving Schools

Meeting to discuss Strategy to address Districts Failure to submit plans 

Parents invite representative from the U.S. Dept of Education to present at the Common Council Education Subcommittee and Board of Education Meeting

Parent Leaders from Buffalo’s Persistently Low Achieving schools are concerned with the Board of Education’s Decision to submit applications for only 3 of 7 of the eligible schools.

 This is the second year in a row that the Buffalo School District has not been able to do what is necessary to ensure that they qualified to receive all the Grant money they are eligible for.  Last year (2010) Buffalo received Race to the Top School Improvement Grant funds for only 4 of 7 of the eligible schools because of their refusal to move Principals at 3 of the schools.  New York State Education Dept. did not accept Buffalo’s refusal to comply with the Grant requirements.  In an Unprecedented move Commissioner Steiner came to Buffalo and spoke at a Board of Education meeting to make the State’s position clear.  Underlying the District decision not to move Principals was an effort to accommodate Union concerns.

Here we are in 2011 and the Buffalo School District again will not receive funding for at least 4 of 7 schools. The underlying reason is again UNION concerns.  Superintendent Williams and the District Administration spent 1 year putting together a plan to move the Principal and half the teachers at all 7 schools which would have made them eligible to receive all the funds they qualified for.  The Buffalo Teachers Federation publicly stated that they would not support any plan that called for the moving of even one teacher, consequently the District attempted to use the Education Partnership model with only 18 days of planning instead.  Which has led to the District not submitting plans for most of the schools.

Parents are concerned that the District is not being guided by its Mission to – Put Children and Families First to ensure High Academic Achievement for all.  Clearly the district has put the concerns of Unions and Adults ahead of Children and Families.

The parents have requested that the U.S. Dept of Education send a representative to Buffalo for the July 20, 11 am Buffalo City Council Education subcommittee meeting and the 5:30pm Board of Education meeting to give President Obama’s administration rebuttal to the Buffalo Teachers Federation accusation that he Moving the Principal and 50% of the Teachers is playing musical chairs, not based on research and will not turnaround failing schools.  The U.S. Dept. of Education is prepared to stand by the Federal Turnaround Strategies.  Parents are following up on a White house offer to send agency officials to local communities to ensure that Administration resources are able to get to the grassroots.  The offer was made On July 1, 2011 when Vice President Samuel Radford attended a Community Leaders Briefing at the White House on behalf of the Buffalo District Parent Coordinating Council. 

Buffalo Parents feel that the Buffalo School district cannot afford to miss out on the availability of Millions of dollars in Federal Stimulus funds that can be used to Turnaround Persistently Low Achieving schools.  “This is an opportunity that we may never have again” according to Buffalo Parent Leader Patricia Elliott.  “How can we afford to pass up on 6 million dollars to turnaround each of our PLA schools?  It is not fair to students who attend those schools. Teachers, Administrators’ and Board members will continue to benefit whether we get the funds or not.  Only children and families will continue suffer from these decisions, for absolutely no good reason.  We know for sure what we are doing know is not working how can we possibly lose by trying something different with the 6 million per school to do it.”



Press Conference Following meeting

When:              Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Time:               1:00pm

Location:         Gateway Longview center – 347 E. Ferry St.

Speakers:         Parents Leaders of Buffalo PLA schools

Under pressure from union, district fails to submit turnaround plans for 3 of 7 failing schools

7 Jul

Press Conference:


Date:               July 7, 2010

Time:              7:30pm

Location:        347 E. Ferry St. Gateway Longview Center

Speakers:       DPCC Reps and Parents


Issue:              Addressing the Reality that district is turning down 24 million dollars to satisfy Buffalo Teachers Federation.



The Buffalo Board of Education has officially chosen not to seek funds for 3 of 7 PLA schools.  We are eligible for 42 Million Dollars, we are applying for 18 millions.  Leaving 24 Million dollars on the table, with no concern for how it will effect Students and Parents.  Only consideration is accommodating the Buffalo Teachers Federation!!!







Buffalo Public Schools Passes on an unprecedented

Opportunity for change and Dooms to another Generation of Systematic Failure



Historical Context


The whole idea of President Obamas’ “Race to the Top” (RTTP) and School Improvement Grant (SIG) is to give the Buffalo Public School District the resources to fix Persistently Low Achieving (PLA) Schools.  There is a catch however. You can’t simply appear to make change while keeping things the same. 


For years Schools In Need of Improvement (SINI) and Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) have put together plans that move the furniture around in the classroom and pretend something has changed. The RTTP and SIG, have been designed by people familiar with the games that go on, particularly in large urban school districts. Districts are forced to make structural changes that will actually make reforms in order to get the money.  The plan is brilliantly designed and is actually working.

The RTTP and the SIG have single handedly exposed what has been the two primary sources of the persistent failure of the Buffalo Public Schools System:


1.    A two-tiered system that is inherently separate and unequal. The system is not designed to produce educational equity for students. Lead Community Superintendent  Dr. Mark Frazier, while answering a question about a delay in sending out school placement letters, has been clearly quoted as saying  “The discussion that started in the fall (2010) was how we place students in the district; that is, have we by design created low-achieving schools by how we place students?”. Criteria-Based Schools (i.e., City Honors, Hutch Tech, DaVinci and McKinley) unfairly take the students with the highest averages (i.e., creaming), selecting only the students they want, and leaving the remaining students in schools without the resources and dedication characteristic of the criteria-based schools. This puts all the students who are not eligible for the criteria-based schools, or not as academically developed, in the remaining schools (of which most are PLA Schools).

We ask this question: “IF ALL SCHOOLS ARE THE SAME (if there is equity), AND WE PROVIDE ALL STUDENTS WITH A TOP QUALITY EDUCATION, WHAT DIFFERENCE SHOULD IT MAKE WHICH “BUILDING THEY ATTEND?”  The RTTP and SIG have exposed this flaw in the design of Buffalo Public Schools and provided the resources, literally $6 million per school over three years, to solve this problem. This is an unprecedented opportunity made available because of stimulus funds that, given the U.S. Budget Deficit, will probably never happen again.

If we fail to access these resources and address the flawed structural design of our education system, we are dooming another GENERATION of Buffalo Public School Students to 50% graduation rates.  This may work for Adults who will continue to have job security, but it does not work for students or the community they reside in.  While all the adults who work in the system are not required to live in the community they work in experiencing the consequences they are part of causing.  At the same time the school systems they send their children to are equitable and have high graduation rates. 

2.    The Stranglehold Buffalo Teachers Federation has on the Buffalo Public School District. (not the teachers, but the teachers’ union). 

In our view, teachers are as much victims of the system as are the students. Their union, on the other hand, has organized itself to take advantage of all the weakness of the system (i.e., its governance structure, purposely disorganized parents, ever changing board members, changing superintendents, etc). The Union is the only stakeholder who by design is responsible ONLY to its members.

Teachers as stakeholders are responsible to everyone just like parents, board members and administrators, but their UNION is solely responsible to negotiate for the best interest of its members (independent of its effects or outcomes). 

The RTTP and the SIG provides us with a case study on how the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) is effecting the district and will potentially be the barrier to prevent the district from getting the resources to make the structural changes necessary to ENSURE HIGH ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL STUDENTS.  

Following the process that has taken place during the last year in our efforts get the SIG we found that:

A.  The Superintendent and his staff spent One Year researching the best way to turnaround seven of Buffalo’s PLA schools.  At the end of their research, the Superintendent chose to make a recommendation that calls for moving the Principal and 50% of the teachers at 5 of the schools.  The Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) adamantly refused to agree with this plan, with its President making the Statement at a Board of Education (BOE) meeting that “we will not compromise on the moving of any teachers.” 

There was no discussion on what was best for the students of the district. The only consideration for the UNION (and, based on its mission, rightfully so), was what was in the best interest of the members it represents.  The BTF President asked the district to ask the State Education Department to give them a planning grant for a year so they could have time to research a model that was better for teachers. (Remember the whole point of the SIG is to FORCE STRUCTURAL CHANGES to fix or close PLA schools).  Clearly the BTF does not want to see these kinds of changes and is trying to figure out how to maintain the status quo. 

The State Education Department has made it very clear on at least three occasions that they will not be awarding a planning grant.  New State Education Commissioner, John King, said it personally.  The BTF clearly believes they have the power to force the State Education Department to change their position.  Remember this point because it will come up again later.

B.    Superintendent bows to the demands of the BTF and agreed to only move the Principals and half the teachers at 3 of the schools. The BTF, then, maintained its NO COMPROMISE stand. The Superintendent, then, agreed to just move the principal and teachers at just one school. The BTF, again, said “NO COMPROMISE.”

They would not agree to a plan that moved any teachers.  The BTF then recommended that all the schools use the Educational Partnership Option (EPO).


C.    The Superintendent totally bowed to the demands of the UNION.  At a BOE

meeting, based on on-the-spot negations, the Superintendent recommended all 7 schools use the EPO model without his staff even being informed.  Six months of research trumped by one week, then one hour, of research.


18 Jun






Buffalo’s Parents want Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan’s support for Buffalo’s Parent Trigger bill to empower parents to put our students first. Buffalo’s Parents left Albany on Wednesday confident that Assemblywoman Nolan could support a “Buffalo only” Parent Trigger bill.

We traveled to Albany on Wednesday, June 15th to meet with State Legislators about the Parent Trigger and left with support from the State Delegation representing the City of Buffalo, the Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and other assembly and Senate members.

Our champion of parents and better public education, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes welcomed us to Albany by introducing us to state officials on the floor of the Assembly.

Assemblywoman Peoples introduced us to many influential members of the Assembly, whom pledged their support for our efforts.

Our children’s reality needs to be addressed now; we cannot wait another year.

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, has the power to in a very meaningful way to support parents in our effort do what is best for our children.

The arguments against the bill are insulting and the thought that Buffalo’s parents will not use this power responsibly is even more insulting.  The fact is that, we are the only stakeholders in the entire system that will use our power responsibly by making every decision in the best interest of our own children, without a conflict of interest. Evidence shows that the same cannot be said for all stakeholders whose needs are met whether our children succeed or not. The result: 75% of our black and Hispanic males drop out of high school and less than 50% of all Buffalo students graduate from high school. We cannot afford to continue on this same path for another year.

Senator Grisanti is confident that Buffalo’s Parent Trigger bill will pass the Senate, the Buffalo Delegation and Black and Puerto Rican Caucus are supportive.  So the question is who gets to decide whether Buffalo Parents are responsible enough to use the power of the Parent Trigger?

On behalf of Buffalo’s parents and students, we call on Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan to bring Buffalo’s Parent Trigger to the education committee and invite Buffalo’s parents to testify on Monday, June 20th.

We are encouraged by the leadership of Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes to help us build support within the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. We are encouraged that Buffalo’s state delegation is supportive of parent’s rights.

Assemblywoman Nolan’s comments are reason enough to put power back in the hands of parents. As parents of students in Buffalo’s failing schools, we do not have time to wait.

Buffalo’s parents have made historic gains in the past year: we have representatives at each of Buffalo’s schools; we are recognized as stakeholders. What we lack is what every other stakeholder at the table has: the legal authority to protect our interests, putting our children first.


For Immediate Release


                                                                                                June 17, 2011


For more information contact


Sam Radford (716) 578-3571


Buffalo City Council supports Parent Trigger

15 Jun

Support for New York State Adopting a “Parent Trigger Law” for Buffalo Public Schools—The Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Council Members Demone A. Smith and Michael P. Kearns expressing its support for New York State (“NYS”) Assembly Bill A7569 which would permit the parents of pupils attending a Buffalo Public School (“BPS”) on the NYS Persistently Lowest Achieving (“PLA”) list to choose implementation of an education intervention model. BPS educates nearly 33,000 students in 59 separate schools. Of those schools, 13 are currently on the PLA list and an additional 13 schools will likely be placed on the PLA list in the near future. NYS mandates that if a school is placed on the PLA list, the local school district must choose one of four education intervention models in an attempt to improve the school. Educational advocacy groups, including the Buffalo-based District Parent Coordinating Council (“DPCC”), have requested that parents be given additional tools to hold the school system accountable and give parents a larger voice in the education process. The proposed NYS legislation would allow parents at a PLA school to implement a chosen education intervention model by collecting signatures from at least 50 percent of the represented parents at the respective school showing support for that model. Advocates for this law assert that this law would give parents a greater role in the education of their children and would result in the school system being more responsive to their interests.

The Buffalo News: Parents group calls for full attendance

31 May

The Buffalo News: Parents group calls for full attendance

By Mark Sommer

Read full story here

A parents group has called for 100 percent attendance Wednesday in Buffalo public schools.

The call was issued by the same group that encouraged parents to keep their children home during a half-day of school on May 16.

“The 100 percent attendance is our future,” said Samuel L. Radford III, vice president of the District Parent Coordinating Council. “Once we are able to address the issue of a broken system, then it’s going to be the main responsibility of the parents to make sure their kids are there, and make sure they remain a meaningful part of the process.”

At the same time, the DPCC’s executive committee postponed an effort being coordinated with several community organizations to bring young people found out of school Wednesday to the district’s intervention center on the East Side, where there is a social worker team and other resources available to discuss returning to school or studying for the GED.

Superintendent James A. Williams’ cancellation of a May 19 meeting to discuss logistics of that effort, and his unavailability before Friday, was the deciding factor in the postponement, Radford said.

Read full story here

June 1: 100% Attendance day in the Buffalo Schools

30 May

Date: June 1, 2011

On Wednesday, June 1st, the District Parent Coordinating Council and many community groups are promoting increased attendance in the Buffalo Public Schools. Specifically, their goal is to increase attendance at Buffalo’s Persistently Lowest Achieving schools.

On June 1, the DPCC is aiming to raise community awareness about attendance issues in the Buffalo Public Schools. The DPCC asks community groups and community members to be more aware of students that are skipping school, and if possible, to start up a conversation with these students to ask why they are skipping school.

Specifically, the DPCC encourages the community to ask these students the following questions and to send in responses to the DPCC so that they can gather information to address this issue:

Questions for students:

What happened? Why are you not in school?

The DPCC asks that all information gathered is e-mailed to DPCCBuffalo@gmail.com, mailed to Gateway-Longview, C/O District Parent Coordinating Council, 347 E. Ferry St., Buffalo, NY 14208

Two-tiered district cries out for Reform

26 May

In light of the upcoming stakeholders meeting with Education Commissioner, John King, Rod Watson of the Buffalo News  explores the 2 tiered education system that exists in Buffalo, and the racial, and cultural factors that contribute to it.

Read the article here: http://www.buffalonews.com/city/columns/rod-watson/article434430.ece

Lynn Seagren Bass, Principal of Tapestry Charter High School, speaks at May 16th Rally

18 May

Lynn Seagren Bass has been involved in education, and education reform for over 15 years. She spoke out at the May 16th rally in support of the DPCC’s mission, and in support of a collaborative effort for education reform. Here are her comments:

My name is Lynn Seagren Bass and I have lived in three worlds of education.  I have been: a parent activist, a BTG union member, and now a Charter School leader.

As a PARENT, I joined the Site Based Management Team (SBMT) at my daughter’s School #64 when she began kindergarten in 1995. I was a part of the DPCC when it was starting in the late 90s, and we were pushing for improvements then.

16 school years later, with my daughter now entering senior year in college, things are not better, but worse.  We were given promises and told to be patient.  How long are Buffalo parents supposed to wait for change?  How many thousands of children do we drop out and lose to the streets before the adults who are paid to do a job actually do the job for which they are paid?

In 1996, I began my ten years as a MEMBER OF THE BUFFALO TEACHERS’ FEDERATION after 14 years in a suburban district. At the start I was full of hope for urban education. During that time I was a member of the Closing the Gap Initiative started by Regent Robert Bennett to bring mental health and medical resources to schools to strengthen families and kids. Who could argue with that? But I sat in meetings, and watched my union leader, Phil Rumore, resist this effort.  The BTF grieved the Family Resource Center initiative and blocked progress.  I was disillusioned.

In 2001, I was sent by a national parent group to Boston, MA, to look at FRCs and also at a hopeful improvement model in Boston called Pilot Schools.  With small concessions in the union contract, these schools are innovative and successful using union teachers.  As a union delegate, I eagerly brought that idea back to Phil Rumore, but he wanted no part of innovation.  In fact, by 2004, he told me he was grieving Buffalo’s own innovative Middle College Program, fashioned after a NYC model.  Around the country in other struggling cities, like Chicago, Boston, NYC, San Diego, and Denver, leaders tried new approaches, proving it was possible to educate city children well, but Buffalo still was not ready to change.

By 2006, I had thoroughly lost faith that there was going to be flexibility of adults for the sake of children in the BPS. With frustration I watched those in power stay stubbornly stuck in protecting employees’ interests over children’s interests as if they were mutually exclusive. The leaders with the power have seemed frozen in place, including Williams, Rumore, and Mayor Brown.  Everyone has blamed others and made excuses and wasted time, without looking at themselves and acting for change with urgency as if it mattered.

By 2006, I felt fortunate to escape the BPS and to renew hope by entering the world of charter schools.

Now as a CHARTER LEADER, I am the principal of Tapestry Charter High School in which my son is a senior, accepted to college with 100% of his classmates.  I know charters are not a silver bullet or a simple magical answer, but we were designed to be change agents, proving what is possible.  There are hundreds of children on the waiting list now for Tapestry for fall.  Thousands of families are in charters or seeking them, feeling desperate for a safe, caring, and effective school environment.  It is pathetic that there is such a clamoring for alternatives to the BPS, but who can blame parents? The charters and other change models throughout the country have proved that it IS possible to do better than the status quo, possible to inspire children rather than fail them.  Parents cannot settle for 50% graduation rates.  Parents know that blame for failure does not lie with poverty or race or zip code, but it is shared by the responsible adults… who must be ready to be creative, to collaborate, to cooperate, to change, and to listen to parents.

In closing, I am pleased that the DPCC and Sam Radford have renewed my hope for parent voice in Buffalo.  I am proud to join my voice of experience with theirs in demanding a system that works for all children NOW! No more waiting patiently! We must look to national models of quality urban schools and implement those NOW!  We must revise the union contracts and put aside egos NOW!  I challenge Buffalo’s leaders to do what children need them to do…  work together unselfishly and act responsibly. Thank you to the DPCC for raising parent voices with URGENCY… and for demanding quality schools NOW!  Our children deserve nothing less.

DPCC Rally at City Hall was a success!!

16 May

We certainly got the attention of the decision makers and the rest of the City. The Buffalo News is prioritizing public education by publishing front page articles almost daily, and sending out multiple reporters to cover the boycott and rally!

We are exhausted and encouraged, and now the real work begins. Stay tuned

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