The Superintendent of Buffalo schools is responding to critics who say her administration lacks transparency by beginning a series of briefings with reports that she says will help keep the public better informed.
Dr. Pamela Brown says the briefings will be held weekly and that she will make more of an effort to directly address some of the critical issues as they arise.
“I had not been as accessible as I have been these last few months. I certainly acknowledge that. The reason, again, was that I had to have my focus on what our schools needed,” Dr. Brown said.
The superintendent says her New Year’s resolution was to do a better job at updating the media on pressing issues facing the Buffalo school system.
The District Parent Coordinating Council still says she doesn’t openly share information. They got the state to withhold $36 million in Title I money because parents weren’t involved in critical decisions. And Dr. Brown has to work with a school board that is often bitterly divided. In a recent vote, she kept her job by 5-to-4.
Parent council vice president Bryon McIntyre said, “We’re not satisfied with the progress that’s being made. Twenty-seven-thousand students are in schools that are low performing and something can be done. There are multiple options.”
Dr. Brown says her administration has boosted the graduation rate by eight percent since she came aboard a year and a half ago and is doing all it can to turn around low performing schools.
“I certainly will continue to do more to reach out to different stakeholder groups in the community,” she said.
The superintendent recently turned down a proposal that was floated for a half-million dollar buyout. Activist Sam Herbert called it a bribe by some business people who wanted her to leave.
“Forced out of the City of Buffalo by individuals who clearly don’t have the children’s interests at heart,” Herbert said.
Situations like that are what prompted Dr. Brown to begin these briefings.
“There’s a lot of misinformation being circulated out there, and I just want to demonstrate through transparency exactly what the situation is in our schools,” she said.
REVIEW SUPT. BROWN’S STATEMENT TO THE PRESS BELOW:
“Good afternoon. First of all, I want to thank you for being here today. We are very near the 100th day of school for the 2013-2014 school year, and because it is also the beginning of the New Year. I’ve decided to publically announce my resolution for 2014 and beyond. So, here it is. I resolve to do my best to update the press, and therefore the public to those things that matter most to people interested in education and how it works.
I am doing this, not to satisfy an urge to brag, or even to detract from those who would say we in the Buffalo Public Schools aren’t doing our best for the children of the district. I want to add clarity, to supply the public with real numbers, and to help those with an eye on us, especially parents, to understand the state of the schools.
I was a parent before I ever thought of being a superintendent, and I was a student for a long time before that, and I will tell you that the ability to grow and learn was at the core of everything I loved.
I sought out a world-class education for myself and for my own children, and I put my children in schools that I taught in, managed, and some that I helped to build. I did this because I trusted myself to offer the very best to children, and to constantly improve where improvement is needed. If I had school age children now, I would put them in the Buffalo Public Schools without a second thought because we are a school district on the rise, and we are moving in the right direction with increased graduation, increased college readiness and increased enrollment. I refuse to let this district backslide for a moment because each child only gets one chance at Pre-k through 12 education on their way to college and careers, and we need to help them to make the most of it.
Education is the cornerstone of success. We have always known that. For a child to grow and succeed, they need strong beginnings and strong leaders. We are now in a very good position to cater to early learners with 122 Pre-K classroom district-wide, and a new $741 thousand grant that will allow for more. Currently, we have 2,055 students in full-day Universal Prekindergarten programs in Buffalo schools, and 720 students in half-day Universal Prekindergarten programs in Community Based Organizations (CBO).
Data Point: “High-quality preschool programs have been shown to dramatically raise children’s abilities at school entry, increase early and later achievement test scores, reduce grade repetition and placement in special education, and boost graduation rates.” Office of Early Childhood Education
This new grant will ensure that all children, including children with disabilities, Limited English Proficient students, and English Language Learners, have rich and varied early learning experiences that prepare them for success in school and lifelong learning. It will also add classrooms, with 74 seats in the neediest schools, and 54 seats in Community Based Organizations. When you consider that early education is the foundation of lifelong learning, this is a monumental step toward student success that I believe this entire city and region will benefit from for years to come, as those nearly 3,000 pre-k children succeed and form the fabric of this region. I consider this to be the first step of the realization of a world-class education for all.
One other thing I would like to mention today that is a key aspect of education is the formation of a pipeline that will build strong leaders. This comes in the form of a newly awarded $439K STEM Leadership Grant that will allow the district to develop and implement the District Leadership Institute, a sustainable framework to strengthen leadership capacity and support excellence throughout our schools. Along with our three Master Teachers named last fall, and our 13 National Board Certified teachers, we continue to work and grow at every level.
Again, I thank you for being here today. I feel as though we’ve only scratched the surface of so many initiatives we began this year. When I look back at the first 100 days, I feel as though we hit the ground running, and jumped every hurdle on the way – and there have been a few, like taking on Pinnacle Charter School just two weeks before the school year began. Still, we’ve met every challenge. It’s not easy, it’s not always pretty, but I am confident that we are getting the job done.
I look forward to sharing more with you in the weeks to come as news is released by the State Education Department–from last year’s graduation numbers, to schools that may have moved up a notch in their designations. We look forward to sharing more with you.