The New York State Education Commissioner is being asked to prevent the closing of four Buffalo schools. State Assembly members Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Sean Ryan were joined by Western New York Regents representative Catherine Collins outside Lafayette High School in Buffalo on Wednesday.
"It would be a mistake to close Lafayette High School. Tt would also be a mistake to close the three schools in Buffalo that are called out-of-time schools by the State
Education Department," stated Assemblyman Ryan.
The leaders are calling on Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to 'rescind' the out-of-time plan that would close Lafayette and three other failing schools.
"I believe that with her in that in that position, we can rethink the idea of closing four schools," said Assembly woman Peoples-Stokes.
Regents Collins said she will be working closely with the commissioner to convince her to stop the schools from 'timing out'.
"We do not want to see another empty school building in Buffalo. We just do not want to see that. We want to see schools that are part of the community," stated Collins.
Former Education Commissioner John King approved the out-of-time plans for the four city schools after past turnaround plans failed.
Collins is an alumni of Lafayette and refuses to see her alma mater shutdown. Collins pledges to fight to keep all four schools open.
"I love this school. I spent a lot of time in this school and I have been so heartbroken to turn on the news and see that my school was a failing school. This school did not fail me and it will not fail this community," said Collins.
Lawmakers Peoples-Stokes and Ryan noted that the state budget they passed this year included $75 million to help turnaround struggling schools. But that funding has been set aside for schools under state receivership. It does not apply to out-of-time status, preventing the four city schools from access to the needed funding.
In reconsidering changing the 'out-of-time' status, Collins suggest the education commissioner review data from Lafayette
"She should look at the data from this school. They have made significant improvements. Our data is always a year behind," noted Collins.
Eve Shippens is 7th and 8th grade science teacher at MLK. The school is in its third year of it's final phase out. She spoke at Wednesday's news conference.
"This has been a completely demoralizing experience to be an 'out-of-time' school. Our students are labeled failures. Our teachers are labeled failures, and I do not believe that either these groups are failures. What we are lacking is resources and support. We need long-term, sustained financing, to get the supports that a high poverty, segregated school needs," Shippens said.