The State Education Department says more than 95 percent of schools in receivership made "demonstrable improvement" in the 2016-17 school year. However, BUILD Academy in Buffalo is one of two New York schools in receivership that did not improve enough and will now be placed under an Independent Receiver.
According to Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia, each school’s Demonstrable Improvement Plan includes a minimum of ten indicators: student achievement and growth on state measures, reduction in achievement gaps among specific groups of students, graduation rates, student attendance, suspension rates, student safety and parent and family engagement. Elia said BUILD failed to score at least a minimum 40 percent improvement in these areas.
That means the Buffalo Public School District now has 60 days to present an Independent Receiver for state approval. Once a person is appointed and enters into a contract with the Commissioner, "the Independent Receiver will assume full managerial and operational authority for the school consistent with Education Law to develop and implement a school intervention plan," Elia said.
Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore disputes the state's scoring system and told WBFO BUILD actually has made great progress.
"You know something, the whole way that it's measured is bogus," said Rumore. "They don't take into consideration that you have 30 different languages spokes at that school or underfunded, the class sizes are so big. So yes, we're glad we have less schools on there, but we reject that they were even on there in the first place because of the way that they're measured."
Rumore said the BTF will be going to court to fight the assignment of an Independent Reviewer.
"We're gonna challenge that. We're gonna go to the court," Rumore said. "Because under the rules, the Receiver becomes the Superintendent, but while our Superintendent can be fired by the (Buffalo Board of Education), whereas this independent - supposedly - person can't be terminated. And in addition to that, just so everybody's knows, that our current contract will be enforced whether it's an independent person or not."
The district issued a statement, saying BUILD will be under an Independent Receiver for the 2018-2019 school year. BPS Superintendent Kriner Cash said he still has "great confidence" in academy Principal Kevin Garcia.
“After Mr. Garcia and his team completely transformed the culture and climate of the school last year, I am confident that BUILD is accelerating in the right direction academically as well," said Cash. "This work is extremely challenging and it takes time. We needed another year for BUILD.”
With that in mind, Cash said he is looking for an Independent Receiver to "complement" Garcia.
"Not someone who wants to come in and tear up the concrete," he said. "When you examine it closely, BUILD is really not in that kind of condition."
He urged staff, community partners and parents to continue "their deep commitment to BUILD."