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Board members setting priorities for Buffalo schools

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Buffalo is unveiling plans for four new schools to open next fall. The plans were discussed Wednesday as board members battled over what's more important, another City Honors or more attention to struggling elementary schools.

The entire system is trying to respond to questions from the Justice Department about equity in the school system and the admissions practices at City Honors.

Education Professor Gary Orfield recommended another City Honors as the district is starting up another Emerson. Board members argued long about the choices last night and chose both.

Board Member Larry Quinn says solving the problems is essential.

"People have moved into neighborhoods so that they can go to a school and let's not kid ourselves, Buffalo's lost, what, 300,000 people population the last 40 years?" Quinn said.

"A large part of that was people choosing to go to another school district. If I hear it once, I hear it a thousand times, I'd love to live in the city but I won't send my kids to those schools."

Quinn wants rapidly improved elementary schools, feeding better high schools.

There is also the issue that Washington may block selection of students for City Honors in the fall without admissions changes. What Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash is pushing is four new schools in existing buildings, including a Montessori high school, a science school, an elementary arts school and a career tech high school.

David Mauricio is chief of strategic alignment and innovation. Mauricio says the goal is definition of a school's goal.

"Making sure that every program has an academically rigorous program, ensuring that it's aligned to Common Core but more important aligned to what kids will need, students will need to go on to college or into a career field," Mauricio said.

The program is based on what many school systems, especially New York City, have done to create smaller, narrowly focused 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.