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.

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