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Should they stay or should they go? Fate of Enterprise, Westminster charter schools uncertain

Buffalo School Board

Buffalo School Board members spent four hours Wednesday evening debating the futures of Westminster Community and Enterprise charter schools. They decided more discussion is needed and will hold another meeting next week.Neither school is doing well academically, even in competition with regular public schools. The board has a series of alternatives for their futures and all are legally complicated. That’s probably why there was a long break in Wednesday's virtual meeting for an executive session with the district’s general counsel and administrators who monitor the academic performance of both charters.

"We are the chartering institution for both of these schools. So when the schools are up for renewal, it really weighs heavy on our board for the recommendation to the Board of Regents for a short-term renewal or a long-term renewal and the Board of Regents will have to approve that," said District Chief of Staff Darren Brown-Hall. "Now if this board decides not to renew these schools and to close them, the Board of Regents doesn’t have a say about that."

If the city board decides on a shorter-term extension, the Board of Regents can change that.

Director of School Review Lorenda Chisolm discussed Enterprise.

"For all student groups, they have performed lower than the district," Chisolm said. "However, with students with disabilities, it’s been kind of comparable. They’ve out-performed us the last 2-3 years when it relates to local language learners and ELA, and then have gone back and forth with economically disadvantaged."

There is that same mix of better or worse across the relationship between the district and Westminster. Board President Sharon Coltman-Belton said "a lot of parents...feel warm and fuzzy"  with the charters. "They like to say, My child goes to a charter school," she said.

The district wants to have a decision within days so it can be on the agenda for the regents' May meeting.

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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