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State forcing major changes at two Buffalo schools


It looks as if students from two troubled Buffalo high schools will be going to the suburbs for their vocational training. Citing their dismal graduation rates, State Education Commissioner John King is calling for drastic change at East and Lafayette high schools.King notified Buffalo schools of his intentions just before Wednesday's meeting of the Buffalo Board of Education.

According to The Buffalo News, King wants BOCES to play a key role at the schools. One option could have the city district pay to send East and Lafayette students to suburban BOCES locations for vocational training. Another possibility calls for BOCES to take over the administration at the two schools.

The 2012 graduation rates at both schools were below 30 percent.

Few specifics regarding the plans have been made available, but BOCES Superintendent Donald Ogilvie says his program has the capacity to take the students.
"This is enlarging our program. But, we've got a cadre of well-skilled teachers who have industry experience. We've got an array of programs. I think for us the next part of the planning will be to determine what the deputy commissioner and Superintendent Brown agree to."

Ogilvie says it won't be a problem that many of the Lafayette students are of limited English proficiency since BOCES trains the teachers who work with ELL students.

Members of the Buffalo Board of Education say they are "stunned by the timing and substance" of King's edict.

Credit Chris Caya/WBFO News
School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold responded to the developments Friday afternoon.

"We've had a year in which we've been working to turn around the problems that have led to the poor achievement and the underattendance and other issues that impact achievement for children at East and Lafayette. That year that we've just completed has not been considered in the decision that the commissioner has made," says School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold, referring to Superintendent Pamela Brown's time in office.

King says it is "a crisis and a disaster" that three-quarters of Lafayette and East High students fail to graduate. King wants a decision in one month or he says he'll shut the two schools down.

Nevergold says Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown is out of the district and unavailable to comment. In a written statement, Brown says she is looking forward to upcoming discussion with the education department about how best to achieve student success in East and Lafayette High.

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.