Mon May 16, 2011
City school boycott
By Eileen Buckley & Michael Mroziak
Buffalo, NY – A protest is being held Monday against the entire Buffalo Public School system. The District Parent Coordinating Council is staging a one-day boycott.
Parents are protesting against against low graduation rates and low-performing schools.
"We're tired of people asking us send our children to a sinking ship. It's like you ask us to send our children to a doctor where you know only 50% of the children are going to survive," said Sam Radford is Vice President of the parent organization.
The parent group represents all 59-public schools in the city. They asked parents not to send their children to class Monday to fight structural barriers. They say those barriers have caused decades of persistently failing schools and 25% graduation rates for Black and Hispanic males.
Radford said parents have had enough.
"Parents have woken up. We will not continue to participate in a system that is broken," said Radford.
The organization selected Monday, May 16th for the boycott because it was a planned- half day of classes for Buffalo Public school students, and according to school stats 60% of Buffalo school students don't show up on half-days.
Parents were asked to bring their children to the True Bethel Church on the City's East Side.
Schools superintendent James Williams discouraged parents from participating in Monday's boycott.
Williams has been criticized for his work, but remains committed to changing structural problems.
:Longer school day, longer school year, mandated pre-school and kindergartner. We should be working our employees, teachers should be working 240 days a year, with salary adjustments. Kids should be in school 200 days a year, eight hours a day. We are the only entity in this country that have a six and a quarter hour school day," said Williams.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation Executive Committee voted unanimously Friday in opposition of the boycott. BTF President Phil Rumore says it's a "terrible message" to send to a child, and notes that "absenteeism" is already a "staggering problem" in city schools.
Several locations, including churches, were opened as places to care for any children who were left out of school by parents boycotting the Buffalo School system Monday. But the turnout was light.
WBFO News reporter Micahel Mroziak was at True Bethel when some parents and students trickled in.
Only a handful of children were dropped off at True Bethel Baptist Church on East Ferry Street and were kept out of sight of news reporters.
Meanwhile at the Subway shop on the church grounds, Shanelle Lee was buying breakfast for her two children, a niece and a godchild, all of whom were missing school as part of the boycott.
"For Buffalo this is pretty radical, I think it is a small step in the right direction and I hope that this is part of a plan of many others," said Lee.
Lee sees this boycott as an opportunity to send school leaders a wakeup call about their dissatisfaction with the quality of Buffalo schools.
"Be the change you want to see. You if you want to instill kids that in order to make things happen you have to do something about it yourself, you have to lead by example, so I'm just showing them that," said Lee.