State rejects Buffalo plans for Bennett, MLK

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – New York State has rejected the Buffalo School District’s plans to turn around Bennett High School and Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Institute.

In letters to the district, the state rejected the district’s plans to relaunch Bennett this fall as an academy with classes in pharmacy and law. Bennett will not be allowed to enroll 9th graders or transfer students.

READ | The letter NYS sent to the district regarding Bennett

Regarding MLK, the state says the district did not have state approval before announcing it would use a $3.5 million federal grant to open a new Medical Campus High School.

READ | The letter NYS sent to the district regarding MLK

Superintendent Pamela Brown could not be reached to comment on the state’s decision. School Board President Barbara Nevergold said the district will review the state’s detailed responses in determining the next steps for both schools.

The Bennett letter from Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz was responding to the district’s March 12 plan to phase-out Bennett and replace it with a new academy starting with ninth graders next fall. In rejecting that plan, the state directed the district effective July 1, 2014 to cease enrolling new students.

“The district must inform the Buffalo Board of Education, school staff and parents that the Bennett STE@M Academy will not open for the 2014-15 school year,” wrote Slentz.

The state directed that the district identify a district staffer – or new hire – by May 30 to come up with a new plan for Bennett for the 2015-16 school year. This staffer and the district must participate in monthly meetings with state education officials to review operations, staffing, curriculum and school programming with the first meeting held the first week of June.

A new plan for Bennett must be submitted by Sept. 1 when State Education Commissioner John King will decide whether to conditionally approve the plan or recommend that the Board of Regents revokes the school’s registration as of June 30, 2015.

If all goes well with planning work by that date, the commissioner can recommend that a new Bennett be registered with the Board of Regents.

Regarding MLK, the state said the district told the public that a $3.5 million federal Department of Labor grant would be used to phase in the opening of Buffalo Medical Campus High School to replace MLK before getting prior approval for its program from the state, says a second letter signed by Slentz.

Slentz detailed that the state’s application was lacking detailed information in seven areas. The district must also answer numerous additional questions about the proposed new school by April 25.

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