Are community schools the right formula for change?

Jun 13, 2016

The Buffalo Public School District continues rolling out new community schools.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley tells says some top leaders are confident it’s the right formula for change.

Students at Futures Academy look at a bulletin board inside their school hall. Futures is one of the newest community schools in the district.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“It’s infectious and I hopes it’s going through our 13-community schools that’s going to be opening. Everyone here is so excited,” declared Catherine Collins, Western New York State Regent Representative.

13-city schools are being established as community schools. Last week, both the Futures Academy and Lafayette International were launched as a community school. 

“I think this is magnificent and the program that the district has put forward is really coincide with what we are doing in Albany, and that’s so important - that Albany’s not doing one thing and that Buffalo is doing something else,” noted Collins.

The state's Community School Initiative is providing needed funding to improve academics, keep schools open longer and provided wrap around services for students and families.  

The New York State Education Department released numbers Monday on the totals for districts to fund community schools state-wide. Under the 2016-17 Enacted State Budget, there was the creation of $100-million set-side within Foundation Aid for Community Schools programs.

Western New York will receive a total of $16,319,633. The Buffalo School District will receive $12,524,617 to fund community schools. 

Futures Academy, Carlton Street, one of the new community schools.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

State Assembly woman Crystal Peoples Stokes was a major fighter to bring the funding to Buffalo. Peoples Stokes tells WBFO News the city district is headed into a new area to turn around struggling schools.

“I do think we are finally turning the corner. We’re finally getting it. That we can’t just accept that some schools do well and some schools don’t, because when schools don’t do well, children are not doing well,” noted Peoples Stokes.

But Peoples Stokes admits it will be a challenge to make sure the resources remain for more than one year at schools. She said a continuation is necessary to create ‘equity’ for all students.

“What this does is provides for an opportunity to create equity, not equality – equity, because if we all keep getting the same equal amount the children who need the most will never catch up, we have to close the equity gap and this is an attempt to do that and it’s got to happen in more than one consistent budget,” stated Peoples Stokes.  

Third and Fourth Grade Reading Teacher Pam Machelor works at Futures Academy. “To get involved and to work with the students and bring their scores up,” said Machelor.

Inside Future Academy in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

This was Machelor’s first year at Futures. She says despite the struggles at the school, she wanted to bring her expertise to help students.

“But take some students that are non-readers and, right now, at this point and time, they are reading and they are excited about coming to school, so I was excited about taking on the challenge of coming to this school knowing that a lot of the students were struggling,” Machelor explained.  

In the coming weeks the district will be rolling out more community schools.  Thursday a ‘community kick off’ will be held at East High School on the city’s east side. The district will unveil East's New Innovation High School and celebrate the school's new program featuring Public Safety, Service and Government Administration.