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Buffalo Public Schools stop informal vocational admissions process found in 2017

Mike Desmond

Some Buffalo Public Schools were operating their own informal admissions processes, leaving some other high schools with the students rejected in that process. However, the School Board Wednesday evening was told this system has stopped.

The board was told top administrators tripped over this informal admissions system in 2017 while probing criteria-based schools, such as City Honors and Performing Arts. Apparently, it had been going on for years and a group of four schools wound up with the students rejected by other high schools: low test-scoring, poor morale students.

"Having a system like this, not the one we're fixing, but the one you had before, for so many years, when you allow a regular public high school to actually have like an admissions process where they can systematically choose students on a whole host of non-defensible or indefensible reasons and it was happening for years," said Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash.

Chief of Staff Darren Brown said that is not how CTE (Career & Technical Education) students are supposed to be admitted.

"It the child has an interest in that program, they are going to be accepted there, if there is a spot," Brown said. "For example, if we have 310 students that put McKinley down as their first choice on their high school application and there are 300 spots available, a lottery must occur for those 300 spots."

Board Member Jennifer Mecozzi said no matter what administrators knew, students knew.

"They already had a morale of zero before they went into high school, because they knew the school they were going into, they knew what the reputation was," Mecozzi said. "I'm sure even as an adult, I didn't realize the kids were having those conversations. The beauty is, now, the kids are noticing what we're doing."

Board members were told major changes have been made to clean up those four schools, including the academic closing and re-opening of East High School, and the addition of a number of special programs to attract students to high schools, like Bennett High School's high-tech programs.

District Administrators say they cannot yet tell if the admissions profile of City Honors has changed racially until the deadline for acceptances next week.

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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