Monday, December 1, 2014

Buffalo Schools at the Crossroads: A letter to the Interim Superintendent Re: "RFP Charter Schools"

Rather than respond to this letter, on November 26th Mr. Ogilvie sent it on to the State Education Department with a request that they respond to the questions, in writing, to all Board members.

November 25, 2014

Mr. Donald A Ogilvie, Interim Superintendent
Buffalo Public Schools
712 City Hall
Buffalo, New York 14220

Dear Mr. Ogilvie:

This letter is a follow up on the discussions at the Board meeting of this date regarding the Resolution RFP Charter Schools, the subsequent passage of that Resolution by a 5 to 3 vote and numerous questions resulting from the same.  The Resolution proposes that “the attached RFP” be released for existing Charter Schools to make application to operate one of the “out of time schools”; namely East, Bennett, Lafayette High Schools or School #39, MLK, Jr. Multicultural Institute.

The attached document however is entitled an “RFS, Request for Space” not an RFP and does not appear to correspond to the RFP(s) issued earlier.  The RFS states as follows:

The Board of Education is therefore establishing a transparent (my emphasis) Request for Space (RFS) process for proposed charter operators to notify the school board that they would like to seek space in a district building and, at the board’s discretion, begin negotiations with the board.

Just as Buffalo Public Schools is considering proposals for conversion charter schools, educational partnership organizations, SUNY lead partner and local innovative programs through a Request for Proposals, this RFS process will enable independent charter schools to seek selection for operation in any the following “out of time” school buildings:

East High School
Lafayette High School
Bennett High School
Martin Luther King School

Applicants for an independent charter that seek space in one of these district buildings must include with the RFS any relevant application or other documentation that they submitted to a charter authorizer, if applicable. (my emphasis) Applicants are only asked to answer the questions below to the extent they are not addressed in such attachment.

1. What is the name of the school that the applicant is seeking to site? Please note that
BCSD is committed to building on the rich history and strong community ties of these four schools. Applicants must therefore submit proposals that retain the existing name as all or part of the name of the proposed schools.
2. What school building does the applicant seek to use?
3. Does the applicant seek (indicate all that apply):
a. Use of the entire school building
b. Co-location with one or more independent charter schools
c. Co-location with one or more district-operated schools
4. Does the applicant’s proposal require formal closure of the current school at the location requested?
5. Describe the applicant’s approach to:
a. Education
b. Leadership, oversight, staffing and operations
c. Community involvement
d. Finances, including school operational costs and any start-up operating or capital funds sought by the applicant

Applicants are asked to submit responses to the RFS as soon as possible, and no later than January 7, 2015, for operation beginning in the 2015-16 school year.”

My concerns/questions about this RFS relate to the questions that prospective charter applicants are asked as there are few or none that ask for any information about the charter school’s ability to provide a “quality educational program”.  What would these applicants offer that is innovative, creative and likely to result in better educational outcomes then the current program(s)?  What populations would they serve?  What are their admissions criteria?  How will they recruit students?  Further, the emphasis appears to be on the use of the building as the primary consideration and not on the educational program to be offered.  Also, what does it mean to “operate” one of the schools?   In addition, why is the date for submission January 7th, not December 12th?   Rather than a level field, it appears that these charters are being given an undeserved advantage.

I’m sure that I would be accused of making an “assumption” that there are already charter schools in the wings waiting to submit a proposal.  And there have been numerous disclaimers regarding this possibility.  But there has been too much work to get these Resolutions crafted (with the input and consultation of NYSED staff) and passed, that it’s difficult to believe that there are not several proposals waiting to be submitted.

Who will evaluate these proposals?  The same group evaluating the proposals resulting from the RFP?   Again the time frame for public hearings, input from the Board will be truncated considerably and not reasonable to provide a thorough vetting.

Another question, which has yet to be answered, even though I posed it several times in tonight’s meeting relates to the authority that the Board has to seek “Requests for Space” from independent charter schools in the instance of the out of time schools or any District schools for that matter.  A review of the Guidance from NYSED on out of time schools states the following:dmissions criteria?  I think by nowal outcomes then the c

“Guidance for Schools Districts Required to Submit Plans for “Out of Time” Schools

Consistent with sections 100.2(p) and 100.18 of Commissioner’s Regulations, districts with “Out of Time” schools must choose one of the following options to implement in identified schools for the 2014-15 school year:
  1. Close the school and disperse the students;
  2. Phase-out of the identified school and phase-in of a new replacement school;
  3. Contract with an Educational Partnership Organization (EPO);
  4. Establish an alternate governance structure for the school(s);  
  5. Convert to a charter school;
  6. Enter into a contract with the State University of New York (SUNY), or in New York City, the City University of New York (CUNY), to provide for the education of the students at the identified school(s).”

Where in this Guidance does it offer the option to the District to seek independent charter schools to take over the school buildings, co-locate in the school buildings, “operate the schools” or co-opt the school building space or program?

In fact, this statement appears in the RFP issued by the District:

“Independent Charter School - A Charter Management Organization may choose to apply to the Board of Regents or the SUNY Charter Schools Institute to operate an Independent Charter School at one of the four schools. An Independent
Charter School under a charter school operator or charter management organization must directly apply and be approved by a NYS chartering entity, either the Board of Regents or the SUNY Charter Schools Institute”

According to comments made by Mr. Quinn, conversations with SED staff have provided you and some Board members with information and guidance that all Board members have not been privy to.  I have included a copy of the motion passed by the Board in July 2013 regarding the requirement that the Superintendent share all communication with NYSED with the Board immediately upon receipt.  I remind you that this requirement is still in force.  The fact that a significant number of Board members, specifically the four minority members of the Board are not consistently given information communicated from NYSED or included in conversations with the State regarding important issues about the future of our schools impacts our ability as elected officials to represent our constituents or to make sound, informed decisions, which will have a serious impact on the education of the children in our District.  That is not acceptable.

I am requesting, in writing, guidance received from the State Department of Education officials that supports the Resolutions and RFS submitted and passed by five members of the Board.  I am requesting that all Board members be given the opportunity to participate in phone and or personal meetings with NYSED officials on these matters.  I am requesting that information be shared in a timely manner with all Board members.

Yours Truly,

Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, PhD
At-Large Member

Cc:  Board Members

No comments:

Post a Comment