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Education

Canisius High School making reforms

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WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Some new reforms are being issued at Canisius High School in Buffalo in wake of last year's firing of its dean of students.  An independent review has revealed several issues.

Beck O'Connor was terminated in November at the school for the discipline of a student football player Brad Zaffram. Zaffram was suspended for reportedly cheating. But it's believed O'Connor was fired for not responding sooner.

An independent review was conducted by lawyer Terrence M. Connors and his law firm of Connors & Vilardo. It concluded there were several issues and recommended changes.

The school's Board of Trustees unanimously voted to begin a series of reforms. 

"It validated the decisions that were made with respect to Mr. O'Connor," said Robert Reger, Chair of the Board.  "Some mistakes were made and there is a consequence."

Reger tells WBFO News coaches will no longer be allowed to be administrators to avoid conflict of interest.

"There just needs to be a separation so that the decisions that are made are not so personal or so susceptible to conflict," stated Reger.  "The investigation only confirmed some of the rumors we had picked up."

Zaffram was a former Sweet Home student who reportedly cheated on a regents test while in the Amherst District. 

"There were episodes that protocols and procedures were not carefully followed. They were playing, from time to time, fast and and loose with the protocols.  Some of the incidents were ten years old, but people remembered them," said Reger.

Canisius will also reform its academic honesty and financial aid policies.

"There were episodes that protocols and procedures were not carefully followed. They were playing, from time to time, fast and and loose with the protocols. Some of the incidents were ten years old, but people remembered them," said Robert Reger, Board Chair.

"We've tried to put in place better protocols and better procedures, and try to bring to attention to the school that eliminates conflict of interest," said Reger. "We don't want it to happen again."

The following are the reforms the Board has endorsed.

Coaches & Administrators

Canisius High School will move toward a structure that separates coaching and leadership positions. As a general rule, members of the school leadership and academic administration should not serve as coaches. The Canisius administration has been directed to establish appropriate guidelines, policies, and procedures consistent with this structure.

Admissions

A majority of the standing Admissions Committee should review all nontraditional applications (that is, freshman applicants following registration and all transfer applicants).  Acceptance of non-traditional applicants will be based on the consensus decision of a minimum of five of the seven committee members. Those members must include the principal, assistant principal for academics, admissions director, and two otrher Admissions Committee members. The Office of Admissions will develop an examination or other objective criteria (such as standardized test scores, Regents exam scores, etc.) for determining the acceptance of transfer students.

Financial Aid

The school will continue to follow best practices regarding the awarding of financial aid.  Specifically, financial aid decisions should be treated separately from admissions decisions and in a manner that counters any perception that financial aid awards favor any particular type of student, beyond demonstrated need.

Academic Honesty

The administrative decisions and protocol at the center of this independent review were in response to allegations of academic dishonesty, a matter of concern in all schools. The school must commit to more extensive student programming that reaffirms academic honesty as a core value and characteristic of Jesuit secondary education. The administration should also discern ways of continually improving the alignment of policies and practices with the goal of affirming academic honesty.  

"I want to be very clear, I think Mr. O'Connor is a fine man and we hope, and wish him every success," said Robert Reger, Board Chair.

Reger also announced that any issues between Canisius and its former dean of students, Beck O’Connor, have been mutually resolved and that neither Reger nor O’Connor would have further comment because this is a personnel matter.  

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Outside Canisius High School on Delaware Avenue.

"I want to be very clear, I think Mr. O'Connor is a fine man and we hope, and wish him every success," said Reger.

WBFO's Focus on Education reporter asked Reger if he believes the school can move forward from the situation.

"Well I sure hope so. I'm pretty neutral. My goal is to keep in mind Canisius is a 150 year old institution and that it has survived many bumps in the road and every time there is a bump and we do what we can to make it a better institution. You know we are not perfect," said Reger.

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