The Buffalo Public School District is now in its second year of its New Education Bargain. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says Monday the city school district will be airing a special program on WNED-TV at 9 p.m. about the bargain and how it is reforming education.
“That we have to change mind set – mindset is the biggest challenge that I see in Buffalo,” stated Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash.
Cash is a key figure throughout the roundtable discussion. The school board approved his education bargain in January of 2016. It is forcing change in a once-failing city school district. But now the district wants you to understand how they’re helping to improve academic performance, reaching school families and the community.
“We are going to do it – we’re doing it and for those who don’t believe it can be done they should get out of the way while we are doing it,” remarked Cash.
The Education Bargain pushes for rigorous early elementary education, and here's the bargain part: "If students work hard and parents commit to their child’s education, the Buffalo Public Schools will guarantee them a path to opportunity, achievement and success."
“And people are buying-in. This is a permanent campaign. It is never over, but we are working every day to commit it deeper into the community,” Cash noted.
Appearing in the program with Dr. Cash, the district selected guests who are top leaders in education, community, business and politics.
“We’re making great progress as a city, but we can’t continue that progress and we can’t continue to grow as a city if we don’t adequately educate our children,” remarked Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
Brown is one of the district's political stakeholders.
"We’re all hands on deck. There’s tremendous collaboration in supporting that plan,” Mayor Brown said.
“Our teams – Mayor Brown’s staff – my staff, they every month and more often, if needed, to work on things like poverty reduction and we work together on MPB, My Brother's Keeper, which is a big initiative that’s coming from the state to help us with our young people of color,” Cash explained.
The District has opened 15-community schools and five new Innovative High Schools to re-develop education. There’s also reduced class sizes in the early grades. But the district is still up against the high poverty rates.
Buffalo School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold said the district cannot change that problem on its own.
“It’s not just the school district’s responsibility. I think that one – the message and then secondly, I don’t agree with people who say ‘oh poverty has nothing to do with it – we we’re poor once and we still achieved’ – you know it has been documented that children who are in poverty situations are not going to be able to achieve educationally because of all of the attingent problems that accompany that,” Seals Nevergold said.
“Considering what some of our students go through – I think they’re doing well and we can always do better,” remarked Phil Rumore, Buffalo Teachers Federation president.
Rumore notes, along with the high poverty rates, inner-city students live in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods, complicating their academic live
“We’re having students that come to school with problems that we need assistance with. Our kids can’t go out on the street. They have to worry about drug-dealers. I never knew any of my friends that were killed or shot,” Rumore replied.
The district is also working to prepare students for college. SUNY Buffalo State has forged partnerships with the city school district. Katherine Conway Turner is president of Buffalo State. She also appears as a stakeholder guest on the roundtable program.
“That I know it takes a whole life course of a young person to prepare them for college, so it’s not just about making sure they’re prepared the moment they step into college, but are we doing the right kind of things along the way,” Conway Turner explained.
From college ready to ‘career ready’, other stakeholders are anxious for the success of city school students as they look to fill future jobs.
Buffalo Niagara Partnership president and CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen agrees the district needs support for its mission to change the lives of students.
“And the kids can’t do it by themselves. It’s got to be a complete collaborative and I think when you talk about systems change – it takes time. I cannot stress enough how there are very few things that are more important than this in our community because we will not have the people we need for the jobs of tomorrow if we can’t get it right in the Buffalo Public Schools,” Gallagher-Cohen added. “And we will never arrest poverty in this community if we can’t get that right.”
“And there answer is – we can’t settle for anything less than that,” said Robert Gioia, president and CEO of the Oishei Foundation.
At little more than three years ago, Gioia, as a community stakeholder, told us he was very disappointed with the district’s performance. But when superintendent Cash was hired, Gioia reached out to him.
“And we sat and had lunch and I just looked at him and said ‘dammit – do something’ and to be honest with you – he is, he continues to do that. This is not easy stuff – this is generational stuff and we’re moving the needle forward and we will continue to and it’s going to require our constant interaction and participation to support him with what he needs,” stated Gioia during the program.
As the second-largest district in the State, the Buffalo Public School district wants to reshape a student's future.
“What would your grade-letter be right now for the city school district?” asked Buckley to Gioia. “I would say it’s a ‘B’ and improving,” responded Gioia.
“Buffalo’s New Education Bargain” is hosted by Susan Hunt who leads this engaging roundtable discussion with some of Buffalo’s top educational, political, community and business leaders:
- Dr. Kriner Cash, Superintendent, Buffalo Public Schools
- Barbara Seals-Nevergold, President, Buffalo Board of Education
- Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, President, Buffalo State College
- Nick Sinatra, President, Sinatra & Co. Real Estate
- Anne Botticelli, Chief Academic Officer, Buffalo Public Schools
- Phil Rumore, President, Buffalo Teachers Federation
- David Rust, Executive Director, Say YES to Education, Buffalo
- Larry Scott, Co-Chair, Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization
- Sam Radford, President, BPS District Parent Coordinating Council
- Byron Brown, Mayor, City of Buffalo
- Robert Gioia, President & CEO, The John R. Oishei Foundation
- Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, President & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Partnership
- Steve Finch, Former Plant Manager, GM Tonawanda Engine
An Original Production of WNED-TV, “Buffalo’s New Education Bargain” will air:
- Monday, January 22 at 9:00 p.m. (premiere)
- Saturday, January 27 at 3:00 a.m.
- Saturday, January 27 at 2:30 p.m.
The program will also be available for streaming at wned.org.