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Buffalo Public Schools reinstate parent facilitators as "liaisons"

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Parent facilitators have officially been reinstated, under a new title, within the Buffalo Public School District. They'll continue to earn stipends that earlier led the Internal Revenue Service to raise red flags toward the district.

They'll now be known as Parent Engagement Liaisons but will resume their roles as individuals who work between other parents and administrators to communicate concerns about individual students or schools. They have received stipends of $300 per month, up to 10 months per year. The IRS informed the Buffalo Public School District in September that it could only pay these parents as employees, not as the consultants by which they were recognized.

The program was officially halted, though many parents stayed on to continue their work. Ti Markle is one such parent liaison and explained that having a formal go-between has helped many parents work with the system.

"Parents sometimes don't feel like they're comfortable doing that," Markle said. "Or, they have tried several times, with phone calls and emails, and haven't gotten any results. So they come to us and say, 'listen, I have this issue with my student, my child, or something that's going on with the school and I really need help.'" 

Superintendent Kriner Cash and the Board of Education negotiated with parent groups that has restored the program under its new name. Participating parents will continue to collect their stipends through the end of this year while the school district determines a model for 2018 and beyond.

Samuel Radford, president of the Buffalo District Parents Coordinating Council, says more than 60 liaisons will be in place in Buffalo schools as soon as possible. Some schools, he noted, were in the process of interviewing candidates as the program was ceased.

It's a program he and others insist is needed in Buffalo schools and proving to make a difference.

"This result that we're getting is real. These are not just people who are out here saying positive things for the sake of saying positive things," Radford said. "This is really hard work, doing the work of mobilizing parents who have, for so long, not been engaged on this level. It's difficult and we need the parent facilitator leadership."

The official restoration date for the program was November 6.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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