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Buffalo School Board approves state-required independent monitor for BUILD Academy

Mike Desmond

Big changes are going on at academically troubled BUILD Academy as it transitions to BUILD Community School.

BUILD Academy on Fougeron Street in Buffalo is being phased out and replaced by the community school. Once open, the district expects about 400 students to attend the community school - the same number as in the current school.

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash has been the receiver for BUILD. However, Albany doesn't think very slowly rising test scores are rising enough, so it mandated an independent monitor, as well. She was selected by New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and approved by the Buffalo School Board Wednesday night.

Credit ATHENA Leadership Awards / Buffalo Niagara Partnership
Buffalo Niagara Partnership
Yvonne Minor-Regan was a 2017 ATHENA Leadership Award finalist.

The new independent monitor is retired Westminster Community Charter School Principal Yvonne Minor-Ragan. Minor-Regan Board Student Achievement Vice President Theresa Harris-Tigg, a one-time city teacher and recently retired Buffalo State College Education professor, will serve as liaison between Minor-Regan and district management.

Schools Chief of Staff Darren Brown said the independent monitor will not be full time.

"That's not the requirement, that she be there all day, every day," Brown said. "It is a position that is a flexible position and then will have to be there some days, in and out, having several meetings to see how we're progressing with our plans for the new Build Community School."

Three candidates for principal will be interviewed Friday, with a final selection next week. That is in time for a public meeting May 12 with parents and the surrounding community.

"We have the school-based management team and some community members who will meet the three finalists this Friday and provide input to the final selection team," Brown said. "So once that selection is made, we have a May 12 community meeting. We will be getting parental input and community input on what they think the new Build Community School will and should look like in the fall. So the principal and the independent monitor will be present."

Brown said the district also wanted to make clear that closing the current school is not forcing families to leave.

"We are a district of choice and we want parents and the community to know that BUILD Academy will re-emerge stronger and better than ever," he said. "We don't want parents to feel forced out of the school."

However, the school has had so many problems that few people from the surrounding community want to go there and most students are bused in. It is so bad that last fall Cash denied it was the worst school in the state, saying there must be one worse.

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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