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

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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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May 16th: NOON RALLY

16 May

Come down to the rally in support of the District Parent Coordinating Council’s demand for better school for ALL of Buffalo’s schools.

The rally starts at 12pm at City Hall. If it is raining, we will be inside the City Hall lobby. If it isn’t raining, we will be in Niagara Square.

E-mail Sam Radford (samradford3@gmail.com) OR Katie today (katie@BuffaloReformED.com) or call 716-479-4124 if you have any last minute questions!

If you want to show your support, and can’t come down to the rally, sign this petition in support of the DPCC.

Buffalo Rising Online: Buffalo ReformED supports the District Parent Coordinating Council’s May 16th Boycott

14 May

Buffalo ReformED supports the DPCC Boycott by Hannya Boulos

Buffalo ReformED supports the District Parent Coordinating Council’s May 16th Boycott. We support this boycott because we believe that a unified parental voice is our best chance at achieving lasting and meaningful reform in the Buffalo Public Schools. Parents are the only stakeholders that will always put the needs of students first; and a students-first mentality is a necessary part of the change that needs to happen. We support this boycott because it represents the parents and students who are consistently overlooked in this district.

READ MORE HERE

Press Conference in support of the DPCC’s Boycott of the BPS

13 May

May 13th, 12:30 PM, a press conference was held in support of the DPCC’s scheduled May 16th Boycott of the Buffalo Public Schools. Over 40 people were in attendance, including leaders from the Youth Planning Council, Buffalo ReformED, AQE, and CAO. Also in attendance were common council member Demone Smith, NYS assembly member, and Crystal Peoples-Stokes. These community leaders and organizations all pledged their support to the DPCC in their mission, and in their direct action campaign.

Vice President of the DPCC, Sam Radford, spoke about the need for this boycott, and the need for a unified parent front. He outlined the DPCC’s vision, and ideas for reaching a solution in the ongoing battle to provide Buffalo’s students with a quality education:

The District Parent Coordinating Council has learned from years at making efforts for education reform that “NO ONE OF US IS AS SMART AS ALL OF US”.  So to begin a discussion with ALL stakeholders we are offering the following to begin negotiations on how we reform education from the Parent Perspective.

 1). Vision – First and foremost we seek  a harmony among all stakeholders.  Everyone working in the best interest of everybody.

a).  We seek a paradigm shift from the individual interest of Powerful Union, Strong Superintendents and School Boards to a COLLECTIVE INTEREST of all stakeholders to achieve the Districts Mission “PUTTING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES FIRST TO ENSURE HIGH ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL”.

We believe the current way of doing business has not and can not achieve the Districts Mission and we must commit to accepting our current failure as feedback (not criticism) and make the necessary adjustments to be more effective.

2).  Our immediate goal as parents is to play a meaningful role in the  Restructuring of our 2 tier “segregated” education system that has historically caused almost half of our students and schools to be Persistently Low Achieving.

3).  In our negotiation we would like to subscribe to SMART goals.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

To Begin the discussion with each Stakeholder we would like to recommend the following

Buffalo School Board

 1)    Eliminate Half Days of School – They do not work by and large for most parents.

2)    Establish Vocational Schools – Regent Bennett has stated that this is something that can be done by the local board.  We are aware of barriers, we believe have the option of being educated in a Skilled trade is vital to ensuring “ALL” of our children get a quality education.

3)    Establish Longer School Days and School Year – Regent Bennett has stated that this is immediately doable by District Sponsored Charters and Charter Conversions.  In order to ensure the quality education of ALL of our children – we need to look at all of our options.

4)    Establishing a clear process in the Parent Involvement Policy to ENSURE meaningful Parent Involvement.  Giving DPCC sign off authority anywhere other stakeholders have it.

5)    Include a DPCC representatives as part of Union Contract Negotiations.  To ensure obligations are not made that violate the best interest of Parents as a Stakeholder group.

Buffalo Teachers Federation

1)    Sign off on a Memorandum of Understanding allowing Certified Coaches and others who are not Certified Teachers to be hired in areas without Teachers Right of first refusal.

2)    Sign off on a MOU that changes the  way we do Parent Teacher Conferences.  We want a 15 to 30 Minute appointment with a Parent, Student and Teacher giving Parents a clear plan on their role to ensure the academic success of their child.  We would like this done in the 1st and 3rd Marking period with a communication method for keeping parent updated.  Weekly email, Web updates, Texting, etc.

  Buffalo Common Council

1)    Support state legislation to give taxpayers right to vote on School Budget

2)    Allocate portion of City Contribution to budget to Funding 2 Full Time Parent Facilitators in all Buffalo Schools.

 Buffalo Mayor

1)    Give date, time and location for Convening of Meeting of all Stakeholders with State Education.

2)    Take Mayoral Control of Buffalo Schools – as Emergency Intervention Option.

3)    Allocate portion of City Contribution to budget to Funding 2 Full Time Parent Facilitators in all Buffalo Schools.

NYS State Legislature

1)    Parent Trigger Law

2)    Legislation for Residency Requirement

3)    Legislation for Voting on Local budget

4)    Address Laws like 3020a and 3012c to ensure we have a effective teacher in every classroom.

 NYS Education Dept.

1)    Don’t finalize District PLA Application without Meaningful Parent Involvement

2)    State Takeover of Buffalo Schools – as Emergency Intervention Option.

Governor

1) Create a Buffalo Education Stability Authority – as Emergency Intervention Option.

U.S. Dept. Education and President

2)    Protect Integrity of over 100 Million Dollars at Stake for Buffalo Schools in Race to Top funding to successfully turnaround our persistently low achieving school, by providing some degree of Federal oversight of the process. Which up until now has been more of the same processes that have lead to the problem.  Make sure the investment achieves a solution.

Follow comments from Sam Radford, and Hannya Boulos of Buffalo ReformED in the videos below. Sign the petition in support of the DPCC, and come out on May 16th for the rally.

Niagara District Council Member David Rivera supports the DPCC

13 May