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BUILD Academy looking for community help as Albany takeover looms

Buffalo Public Schools

Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash told the School Board Wednesday night that BUILD Academy is not the worst school in the state, no matter what test scores show. However, the school is in rough shape and its future is uncertain.

The district wants to keep BUILD within the school system, rather than let Albany turn it over to an independent receiver.

The Fougeron Street academy has shifted far from its roots as a community-run school aimed at uplifting children, to one with terrible test scores year after year. Apparently, that is what residents in the impoverished community around the school believe.

Associate Superintendent Casandra Wright was once BUILD principal. Wright says the school needs to rediscover its roots to find its future.

"What we have to do as a community is get back to the BUILD legacy, wherein a radicalized group of people said we need better for our children," Wright said. "They didn't say give us some money. They said give us some space so that we can do it better for the kids."

The superintendent has made major changes in administration and staff at BUILD, pushing to a clear goal.

"Worst to first: I disagree that it's the worst school in the State of New York. It would be hard for me to believe that," Cash said. "You're going to have to show me all the other schools, New York City to Buffalo to all of the other communities. Nonetheless, that's the designation when it comes to proficiency."

Cash said scores are showing improvement, even the score that shows teachers had an average 84 percent attendance record two years ago.

Board Member Theresa Harris-Higg said the students need community help.

"We need folks in there reading with these kids, writing with these kids. These kids don't necessarily get that," Harris-Tiggs said. "They are working on some skills. It's sort of like just throwing a lot of things and seeing what sticks. Some of the kids are going to grab those skills, some are going to do okay, but our kids need folks who work with them one to one, reading with them, talking with them."

Even the kids in the surrounding neighborhood will not attend BUILD. Of 600 potential students within the surrounding 1.7 miles, only 55 attend the academy. The others are bused in.

Cash has called a meeting for 10 a.m. on Saturday in the school to let the public know what is going on and listen to public comments on what might be done to turn around BUILD, perhaps building on the people who created the school a half-century ago.

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.
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