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School Board moves towards more charter schools

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

The Buffalo Board of Education has potentially cleared the way for conversion of many city schools to charters.

With Albany basically ordering four city schools to close, the board is grappling with what to do and the current majority of board members voted to ask Albany for another round of charter applications to open in a year. Whether the State Education Department would do that and do it on a fast track isn't clear.

The school system has to report to Albany what it will do about Bennett, East, Lafayette and Martin Luther King schools. Among the choices are closing a building and re-starting it from scratch or converting to a charter.

The meeting became heated and nasty with accusations of legal misbehavior thrown around, including a heated exchange between Board Members Mary Ruth Kapsiak and Larry Quinn. 

The board minority wanted more time to talk about options and the push for charters, which Quinn has never denied. What was different was a later amendment opening all city buildings for charter conversion.

There was already a quiet push underway to convert East to a charter but that plan called for opening two-years from now.

In another longstanding problem area, Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie says new procedures to cut down on suspensions are working.

"There will obviously always be exceptions," Ogilvie said.

"You're talking 34,000 students, 56 buildings, a variety of needs across the district. We have the pieces in place, the code of conduct, the supervision policies, the Special Education processes."

Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news
Several people expressed their concerns over school suspensions prior to Wednesday's board meeting.

In a news conference just before the board meeting in Performing Arts School, an alliance of Citizen Action and the Alliance for Quality Education says the new system still suspends minority students out of their proportion in the schools.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.