As the city school district grapples with failing schools, a powerful Buffalo stakeholder will lead a discussion on 'The State of Public Education in Buffalo' Wednesday evening. M & T Bank Chairman and CEO Robert Wilmers will deliver remarks. WBFO'S Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley has this preview.
You might wonder why Wilmers would be speaking about education. For long time Wilmers has served as the director of the buffalo promise neighborhood.
"One way or another I've been involved with the Buffalo Public School system for many years. First we got involved with School 68, which is now the Westminster Charter School. I guess over 20-years ago. Then we got involved with the Promise Neighborhood," stated Wilmers in a WBFO News interview.
The Promise Neighborhood has been successful at the Westminster Community Charter school. But it has been much different Bennett high school, one of the city's failing schools, that could shut down. Promise Neighborhood dropped Bennett last year, redirecting its focus toward early childhood, elementary and middle school.
WBFO News asked Wilmers where breakdowns in the city school system occurred.
"Certainly true that our system leads something to be desired. I can't say there was any moment in time where the break down started or if there is, I don't know when it is. But the system's got a lot of constituencies and they're probably all somewhat to blame," said Wilmers.
Canisius College will host Wilmers and invited guests Wednesday night where he will conduct a dialogue, by answering questions, and push for unity in making wholesale changes to improve the city school district.
"Where we spend about a billion dollars a year on the Buffalo Public School system, which is the largest machine of economic development that we have in Buffalo. Given all that, I thought it might be a useful time to put all the facts and thoughts that I have on the school system together and tell people what I think," said Wilmers.
Wilmers is a supporter of charter schools. Something the Buffalo teachers union opposes. Buffalo Teachers Federation president Phil Rumore said he does not think they are a solution.
"They drain money from the Buffalo Public Schools, which has been shown. They also are allowed to kick out students that they consider undesirable, and basically, they are not performing as well as everybody thinks they are," said Rumore.
Rumore has been invited to tonight's conversation. He tells WBFO News he will most likely attend.
Wilmers is expected to call major changes and wants the community to help create a better education system.
"And indeed every citizen of Western New York, because the nucleolus of the whole region is the city of Buffalo. We can't have a weak educational system in the core center of our population and not have vibrant region," said Wilmers.