Current District response to OCR

Okay, we are almost caught up. At the Sept. 23 School Board meeting, Dr. Kriner Cash presented the Board’s new response. Here is the Buffalo News report on the new response, from this article on Sept 23 by Sandra Tan. Quoted below. You can read the full report/response on the District’s web page here, and you may submit your comments and thoughts to the District there, too. (It wasn’t clear to me whether the Board had to review and vote on the response, or whether it’s official as of this time).  PDF link to response here:

“Federal education officials previously rejected the School Board’s proposal to answer recommendations made by consultant Gary Orfield of the UCLA Civil Rights Project. A letter from the Office of Civil Rights noted about 10 specific problems that the board’s plan failed to address.

Other critics of the original district response said that it did not go far enough and failed to address the most dramatic recommendations, including one to open a second City Honors School and another to eliminate neighborhood preference for those living in Elmwood Village to attend Frederick Law Olmsted School.

The new response by the district accepts 15 of Orfield’s recommendations and modifies nine others. The first response accepted only five of Orfield’s recommendations, rejected one and modified all the rest.

Superintendent Kriner Cash said the new response to the Office of Civil Rights is more detailed and pursues a more aggressive timeline for implementation. While the district’s original response was 12 pages, the new one is 40. And unlike the previously submitted response, the new one also explicitly lists which district administrators are responsible for shepherding through each priority.”

What struck me, in scanning the report, was the District’s sudden ability to use this response as a way to update, redesign, or reframe some of their grade schools beyond clinging to the criteria schools as the only “good” schools. There’s mention of an Arts based elementary school at ECC; there’s talk of creating several other dual language schools or immersion schools. In short, there’s real thought and effort in this response.



The Orfield report, response, over this summer

One thing that might have gotten lost in the process and publication of the Orfield report, which the District waited on for a long time, received, and then found itself in a position to submit its response without having a Superintendent and while trying to hire one: their standing as in violation. What was easy to overlook was the fact that the Office of Civil Rights had already determined that there were civil rights violations in the way that the BPS District runs its criteria schools. So regardless of how well the current schools work, or whether you think discrimination did/does occur, the reason that Orfield was consulted was to begin the process of addressing and the determined violation.  In this way, the District could not afford to ignore the recommendations from the report (at least not without offering a very detailed new plan).  This article from the Buffalo News describes the Board’s initial plan and how it was rejected. I believe the Board probably knew it was going to be rejected, and just wanted to wait until the hired Superintendent could spend some time on it. Though I’m not entirely sure.

Sept 5 BN Article, “Federal agency rejects Board School Board’s Plan to address discrimination”

In this article there are links to the first plan the BSB submitted, here

And a response from Gary Orfield after seeing this plan here. Quote from Orfield letter:

“The school board seems to have treated the report as merely a document whose elements could be accepted or rejected as the board wished rather than an integrated plan to solve a very serious civil rights violation. When OCR makes a finding of a violation it is obligated by law to resolve it or to institute enforcement action which, under the Civil Rights Act, could involve cutoff of federal funds or requesting the Justice Department to sue the school district which could result in the federal court taking over important decisions concerning the city schools. The drastic nature of these remedies means that most communities facing an OCR finding agree to take action to cure the problem. Our assignment was to suggest what kinds of actions would be necessary. There were specific reasons for each of the recommendations that we would have been happy to discuss if given a chance.”

And, finally, a link to the report itself, which was published May 27, 2015. It runs about 100 pages.

Recent Links

The blog has to play catch up for a post here, in which I remember that I posted some links on the FB page ( but forgot to add them here.  Some important things happened other than so many articles about education. For example, the District posted an initial response to the OCR, which was (predictably) rejected, and the new Superintendent arrived, Dr. Kriner Cash, and they have submitted a revised response, which is thorough and creative and wants to think seriously about the future of District schools. But for now, things we were talking about:

Why School Boards matter (in the negative, sadly).  Tampa Bay Times.

“In just eight years, Pinellas County School Board members turned five schools in the county’s black neighborhoods into some of the worst in Florida.”

Jelani Cobb, writing for the New Yorker, on the closing of Jamaica High School in Queens. The Life and Death of an Urban School.

“In 2011, the year that the city formally decided to close the school, fourteen per cent of the student population had disabilities and twenty-nine per cent had limited English proficiency. In the year before the school closed, it was ninety-nine per cent minority, a demographic that would not in itself be a concern were it not also the case that sixty-three per cent of the students qualified as poor.”

“We didn’t get the support,” teacher James Eterno.

“Both busing and school closure recognize the educational obstacles that concentrated poverty creates. But busing recognized a combination of unjust history and policy as complicit in educational failure. In the ideology of school closure, though, the lines of responsibility—of blame, really—run inward. It’s not society that has failed, in this perspective. It’s the schools.” – Jelani Cobb

Longreads The Lost Summer,” by Elissa Strauss

An article on the history of summer and how it places some kids behind — permanently. Also, camp as a cure for feminine domesticity! “In the Victorian era, shortly after the long summer break became standard, wealthy families began to worry about their sons who were, as they saw it, spending far too much time in the overly feminine domestic space. Their masculinity was at risk.

“Summer was considered a problem for boys. They needed to be outside, in the company of other men. Camp was an antidote to home,” said Abigail A. Van Slyck.”

Giftedness and Screening in Public Schools

“The ‘gifted’ system in US schools is broken, racist, and completely fixable”

Key quote : “Notably, the study shows that students who might not have been classified as gifted under the old regime did well once they got into the gifted programs.

“[I]f anything, the newly identified students benefitted even more from participating in gifted education than did the group of always takers who [would] be identified under a traditional referral system,” the researchers observed.”

The Washington Post also picked up this study’s findings in this article by Jeff Guo:

These kids were geniuses – they were just too poor for anyone to discover them

“It’s unclear what the long-term legacy of universal gifted screening has been in Broward. According to public records, the disparities between white and black children have widened in recent years. As of December, a white student in Broward was nearly five times as likely as a black student to be labeled gifted, and nearly twice as likely as a Latino student.”  (This quote refers to the fact that the county could not afford to keep doing the universal screening).

Education Gap Between Rich and Poor Is Growing Wider

And finally, an article about how public schools have become more unequal for poor kids in the New York Times, by Eduardo Porter.

“Financed mainly by real estate taxes that are more plentiful in neighborhoods with expensive homes, public education is becoming increasingly compartmentalized. Well-funded schools where the children of the affluent can play and learn with each other are cordoned off from the shabbier schools teaching the poor, who are still disproportionally from black or Hispanic backgrounds.

Even efforts to lean against inequality backfire. Research by Rachel Valentino, who received her Ph.D. in education policy at Stanford University this year, found that public prekindergarten programs offered minorities and the poor a lower-quality education.”

That’s the summer reading. Next up are the main Buffalo News links you need to catch up on the Orfield report, response, rejection, resubmit, etc.






The Year Begins – when to apply in October for 2016

The District opened the 2015 year today for K students through High School, and Pre-K kids phase in tomorrow and next week.  The District’s Calendar is online here, and it includes the first date that you may pick up a School Choice Application at Central Registration, which is Monday, October 5th. Many school open houses are also listed with dates and times, and the admissions testing for criteria schools are also listed. Looks like testing may occur earlier this year…

BPS orientation Aug 31 and Meet the New Super Sept 1

If you are starting BPS schools, here are two useful events the first week. This is quoting from an email sent by the DPCCC. Their facebook page is :

BPS “District Parent Coordinating Council” Orientation MONDAY, August 31 at Bennett High School. Details below.

Hello, Parents and Guardians.  The 2015-2016 school year begins next week, and we all know that parents and guardians are essential to the academic success of our children. This is Dr. Wendy Mistretta, executive officer of the Buffalo Public Schools’ District Parent Coordinating Council inviting you to two important parent events next week – the District-Wide Parent Orientation on Monday, August 31st and the DPCC meeting on Tuesday, September 1st.  Please continue listening for more information about each event.
The theme of our District-Wide Parent Orientation is “BPS is Changing: Essential Information ALL Parents Need to Know.”  It will be held at Bennett High School, at 2885 Main Street, on Monday, August 31stfrom 4 – 8 pm.  There will be presentations from district departments and information tables where you can ask questions. We will also have special presentations for our multilingual families with interpreters available for our top languages. Refreshments will also be served.
MEET THE NEW SUPERINTENDENT  Tues Sept 1, at City Honors School.

On Tuesday, September 1st, ALL parents, guardians, and interested community members are welcome to attend the monthly business meeting of the District Parent Coordinating Council at City Honors School, located at 186 East North Street from 6 – 8 pm. Our new Superintendent, Dr. Kriner Cash, will be joining us for our meeting.  Our agenda will also include a discussion of our priorities for the year.
Parents have POWER and we can make a real difference when we work together on behalf of our children.  We hope to see you next week!

August reading

This American Life featured a story of segregation and integration in a St.Louis area school district that I’ve been thinking about — one question the reporter poses is: Is it possible, in Missouri, for an African-American child to get a real/decent/quality public education? What sort of “options” are minority children given, or mostly, not given? And what is a parent’s responsibility to its school communities — do you make sure your own kid has the best possible school, or do you want fair, quality public schools… (me editorializing). Certain parents don’t come off so well in this story.

Listen here:

This week I’m reading an article about de-integration, or re-segregation, in the Tampa Bay Schools.

In other news, the School Board is meeting today to vote on the main candidate for Superintendent, Kriner Cash.  He’s had support initially from the new Ed commissioner and the Buffalo News. The Buffalo News reports that support for him is broad, and the vote is likely to be unanimous. Off to a good start ….

Pay for Public Teachers

Are public school teachers well paid? Does paying teachers well correlate to higher quality education? In New York state, it seems teachers are well paid, according to this 2013 data. In fact our state has the highest average salary for public school teachers, beating Massachusetts, DC, Maryland Connecticut and California. Salaries average over 75K. The nationwide average is 56K. See this blog post at Higher Ed Data Stories (lovely name for a blog…). That’s a good job, I think. Especially as teacher pay has actually declined in the past five years in many states. I’ve always wondered why the cost of an ed degree plus certification and/or your masters seemed so high, in both tuition dollars and time invested, given the relatively low pay you start at.  I’m going to see how Buffalo public salaries measure up and try to compare them with local charter and private school salaries. My guess is there’s quite a range. It’s possible that competitive pay in a city like New York skews the state data…

Here’s the link to the Dept of Ed’s excel chart:




Stressing about schools and the public benefits of public school

Over the summer this blog will primarily be links to articles I read about education. There’s a lot going on in the Buffalo District right now if you’re following the paper – ah, receivership for some “failing” schools, and a new state ed commissioner with ties to the area – MaryEllen Elia – who dropped by recently with various threats. This all promises lots of fun times for the next school year, given that the District has yet to find a new superintendent to respond to her demands. (BN article here) While some of her sternness is probably warranted, given the poor united front our Board presents, it’s yet another episode in what seems to be a regular clash between the District and the State. State wants more (but doesn’t want to _give_ more), and the District digs in its heels and slows the process. Threats, demands, ensue. I’d be happier if we could get some solid leadership first. But I don’t know that the District will ever get the control it wants. I fear that if the Union doesn’t attempt to be more flexible with the District, the State will make moves to nullify it anyway. In other news, Paladino seems to be always out of town for recent meetings, or is he purposely not attending?

But the reading: Gabrielle Blair at Design Mom has a post about “choosing schools” for her six children and how she’s managed the stress of it all. I think she makes a lot of sense, and she has a nice perspective because she has had kids in so many different schools through moves, and given the age spread of her children. The perfect school doesn’t guarantee your kid’s happiness or future success. Nicely done.

Gabrielle Blair on “Why We Don’t Stress Out About Choosing A School“.

The (most recent) Paladinian Saga

After something he said at a “failed tea party rally” in Olean (I keep trying to picture what that looks like) about “damn Asians” getting (too) free a ride at SUNY schools, parents and citizens in Buffalo are protesting with a movement to get Carl Paladino off the school board. (BN article on Paladino’s comments here). Anyone who pays less attention to the pandering to white folks and more attention to the economics of higher ed knows that foreign students actually subsidize in-state/local student tuition by paying many times more than the “resident” student. Nor can anyone on a non-resident visa declare in-state residency. But no matter. It’s the failed tea party that counts. Not to mention that’s there shouldn’t be anything wrong with subsidizing anyone’s student tuition, foreign or native, if that’s what the system needs to run a thriving university. Also, can we point out how cheap the SUNY system is compared to other state systems? It’s impressively affordable.

Paladino was voted onto the School Board last year by the people of Buffalo. When I asked people why they thought he would be effective, many referred to the fact that he got the toll booths on I-90 moved, I suppose to indicate that he while he may not be a very likable person, he gets things done. And people really want things done in this school district right now. Personality aside, has he done that? Or been able to do that? My sense is no. From what I have observed, his need to control people, his anger and his scary vindictiveness get in the way of any civic work he wants to do. Beyond that, there is a distrust of his own business regarding its relationship to charter schools, in that people see his mission as deplete the District’s public schools in favor of promoting Charter Schools (in the way of the Tea Party or other conservatives’ goals). He owns buildings that lease space to local charter schools and thus stands to profit from their expansion. Anyone who follows local politics seems aware of this.

I was willing to see what he’d do until I saw how nasty his behavior was, especially in public and in School Board meetings. There’s unlikable, and then there’s the constant performance of being the meanest. When Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie helped orchestrate a compromise on the Board at a March meeting, regarding the turnaround plans for four out -of-time schools, Paladino made what now seems like a very Paladino gesture. After the meeting, he turned on his once-ally, accusing him of “treachery” and submitting an angry resolution for Ogilvie’s firing. (Link also below). As far as I can tell, this lost us a year of Ogilvie’s service. Ogilvie decided to end his contract as Interim Super this June instead of continuing for another year. Now the Board has to search for a new Super on shorter notice, and it seems clear that no sensible or competent person could really want this job. Hooray, Buffalo. How can we avoid mayoral control when the School Board has devolved into an embarrassing circus? How will a district without a leader even being to implement the required changes of the “Orfield report?” If the district can’t make some of those changes, there will be federal sanctions.

(Key quote from that report: “Nobody is ever going to muzzle me,” Carl Paladino)

In any case, the movement to remove Carl Paladino from the School Board is hashtag Mad As Hell and CanCarl, or #MadAsHell and #CanCarl. You can see it on Twitter below, and many people are posting photos of themselves on Facebook with the hashtags.

Twitter #CanCarl

Should you like to educate yourself on Paladino’s past and who he is, you may start with a search in the Buffalo News, but, it’s a time-consuming education.  Good luck.  BN Articles w/ “Paladino”.  (As of June 12).

And welcome to Buffalo.