Sunday, October 12, 2014

Buffalo Schools at the Crossroads: The Truth Will Out

In last week’s article, I cited an interview with New York State Commissioner of Education, Dr. John B. King, Jr., which referenced comments and sentiments confirming his agreement with and support of the positions taken by the new Board majority, majority and their hand-picked Interim Superintendent, Donald Ogilvie.  On September 18th, the date of Dr. King’s visit to Buffalo, he seemed also to say that he thought it would take time to see if this group made good on their plans to reform the District.  What the Commissioner didn’t say, however, was that he would soon be issuing a new mandate that would assist in moving that reform agenda.  In spite of the fact that the majority agreed to revise a Vision Statement that included the input of all Board members, they are moving ahead on setting up mechanisms to privatize the Buffalo Schools and create a Charter School District that will not serve the least and the left-out in their schools. Independent Charter Schools will inherit our buildings, not necessarily the children in those buildings because they will be free to set their own admissions criteria.   

On October 7th, the Commissioner sent a surprise new mandate to the District that informed the Board that East and Lafayette High Schools were, in addition, to Bennett and MLK Institute #39 being declared “Out of Time Schools”.  He ordered the Board to provide a timeline for the next steps for these schools, which could include, per the Commissioner’s Regulations 100.2(p) and 100.18, closure, phasing out and phasing in a new school, converting the schools to charter schools (the conversion process is different from allowing a charter group to take over the school) partnering with the State University of New York to operate the schools or entering into an agreement with an Educational Partner Organization.  Independent Charters are not explicitly cited in these Regulations:

The Commissioner gave the Board until October 20th to respond to this new order.  However, within a 24 hour time span, Mr. Ogilvie drafted a set of Resolutions that he presented to the Board for adoption at its October 8th meeting.  Members of the Board’s majority proceeded to amend the Resolutions to request that the Commissioner offer a new exclusive round for independent charter school applications that only applied to Buffalo.  Over the objections of the Board’s minority, who requested time to consider all implications of the Commissioner’s new mandate; time for open and transparent communication to the community; and time to engage the parents and other stakeholders in the affected schools, the majority passed the Resolutions.
These Resolutions were rammed through the Board, in record time!  Why?  The “Vision Statement” issued by the new majority in July when they took office proposed an agenda that turns over our schools to private sector operators.  In other words this action is part of a reform agenda that has roots in a nation-wide privatization plan for public education.  It is well-planned, orchestrated, well financed and supported at the highest level of the state’s educational hierarchy.  You might ask if I’m being over dramatic or dabbling in conspiracy thinking.  All I have to say to that question, for now, is that you should check out the New York State Education Department’s website, where you’ll find a posting for “Prospective Charter School Applicant Groups and Charter School Operators – Buffalo ONLY”.  The date of this posting?  October 10th, first thing in the morning    To increase the likelihood of numerous applications the State is dangling a potential grant of $750,000 as an additional incentive.

We need your support.  Call/write Mr. Ogilvie and let him know you object to his actions – 816-3575.  The community should have an open and transparent session(s) to get information about the meaning of this mandate.  Also Call/write the Commissioner,    Your voices can make a difference.

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