Buffalo Public Schools are running out of time to define a future for BUILD Academy, whose weak academic performance is impairing its prospects.
The school's test scores are pretty bad, although they ticked up in the most recent stats. However, that uptick was not enough for Albany - which wants a state Education Department-approved Independent Receiver to take over the school, already in receivership.
The district has less than six weeks to decide what to do. Cash told the School Board Wednesday night the district has two choices: closing and re-starting the school or bringing in an outside receiver - and there is a shortage of people who want to do that.
Either choice also would require the wholesale removal of administrators and teachers, a staff Cash has just shuffled and rebuilt to get those higher test scores.
Ferry District Board Member Sharon Belton Cottman is very protective of BUILD and said its improving scores offer a possible third path.
"In my conversations with people in that building on Saturday, they felt that within a year's time that this building will turn around," she said. "My request would be that the board ask the state to come up with one additional option, which is to allow the building to exist for one more period of time - one more semester, one more year - and see what the outcome will be."
At-Large Board Member Larry Quinn said BUILD could be used to experiment on the building, to find new ways to improve achievement. Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold said Albany's tests are the problem.
"Which are dragging our students down," she said. "The fact of the matter is that the teachers are forced somehow to teach to the tests, teach to making sure that the kids pass proficiency and move from ones to twos. The conversations are always about proficiency and the level of the students, not as individuals but as numbers, ones, twos, threes."
That is the state's system of measuring proficiency, with one being the lowest score.
Cash said there are other schools just barely staving off Albany. He said there is a deeper underlying problem, potentially affecting other schools with bad test scores.
"Hairpin away from many schools being in the situation that BUILD's in and, even if you come out of it, if you come out of it momentarily, you can be back in that bucket the next year because literacy is still the profound challenge here in Buffalo," Cash said. "It's just a profound challenge. That's true in a lot of places but it's really profound here."