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Buffalo Schools using summer to focus on student athletes

McKinley High School

Buffalo Public Schools are moving forward on efforts to improve sports in the school system, especially trying to make sure student athletes have the grades and game performance to be open to college scholarships.

The school system has a number of pieces to its effort. The district has been trying out study tables to make sure school work is completed and give coaches the chance to make sure students don't miss more than 15 days during the school year to keep the athletes eligible.

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash doesn't like the way things have been and says students will see a "sea change."

"Right now, the standard is too low," Cash said. "The bar is so low that even if they're a great athlete, they won't get recruited, because they can't meet the standards of the university. So what we have done is align these new standards to area and university standards for eligibility."

School Board Member Sharon Belton-Cottman said that may be too rigid.

Credit Eileen Buckley / WBFO News

"There are some young people who are responsible for kids in their lives, that if they don't take care of those kids, they aren't going to get to school and they're not going to have a life," Belton-Cottman said, "and I think we have to look at this and build in certain exceptions to this program or whatever. Because the last thing I want is for a child to be penalized for doing what they're supposed to do, to help their other brothers and sisters."

The district has been having some success in getting students college scholarships, but has a way to go.

Another part of the sports plan includes working with the city to add many more sports fields in city parks, reflecting the continuing addition of girl's sports and planning for a major indoor sports complex to serve the entire city. The Ralph Wilson Foundation is also putting up some money to plan 11 new sports fields in city parks.

District Facilities Director Paul McDonnell said consultants are pitching their ability to design the indoor complex and look at where.

"What the field house would look like? What kind of sports do we want to accomodate? Is there going to be an indoor track? Is there going to be pools? Could be tennis courts, basketball courts. What is the size of it going to be? What is the infrastructure we need? And from that selection of program, help select a site," McDonnell said. "We have looked at certain sites - JFK, Glenny Park, Masten Field - and there may be other sites."

The district is also grappling with the Buffalo Teachers Federation about bringing in coaches who are not also district teachers. The union has turned down a proposal to allow that.

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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