The Buffalo School Board Wednesday night celebrated East High School's men's basketball team winning a state championship and was praised for taking a big step toward major improvements in district athletic facilities.
East High School won the Class D state championship, and the players and coaches were honored at the board meeting. They join the Hutch Tech outdoor track team, who will soon head off to the prestigious Penn Relays, riding one of the new sports buses the district is buying and saving a lot of money over a chartered bus.
Administrators pointed to the teams' success as what's possible when, after years of talk and planning, school athletics facilities are upgraded.
The board was briefed on an application that goes to the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Friday to help design and pay for renovating athletic fields and starting an indoor facility to serve the entire district.
In recent years, sports teams have been added, but there aren't enough high-quality fields. David Mauricio, chief of strategic alignment and innovation, told the board it is part of the increasing rivalries with suburban schools on the field.
"We were leading the way many years ago, about 10 years ago, in upgrading our facilities, Riverside, Bennett High School and some other facilities," said Mauricio, "and then the suburban schools began to catch up with us and some have exceeded our fields and our complexes, and so now we are this Friday we will be submitting that application, the full application as well to upgrade our fields and also build an indoor facility."
Mauricio said the application covers 10 athletic fields.
"This will again help us upgrade 10 fields in the city - five Buffalo Public Schools, five City of Buffalo fields - and also build in Buffalo the first, as I'm aware, the first indoor facility for our students," he said, "and so, hopefully, the community is excited about that and if so, please applaud for that (applause), for that is excellent work for our children."
On a longer-term project, he told the board the district is closer to getting more freedom in hiring quality coaches. The current Buffalo Teachers Federation contract restricts coaching jobs to teachers.
Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said athletics are part of a well-rounded education.
"While we know that academic achievement is the most important thing, we also know that many of our students are talented in the arts, in music, in athletics," Cash said, "and when they have the opportunity to fully engage in these activities, these enrichment activities, they do better in school, they attend school more often, their attendance rates and their behavior all improve in the right direction."