(WBEN) The Buffalo Board of Education is expected to act on a turnaround plan for Lafayette and East High Schools Thursday, days after the state education commissioner sent a blistering letter threatening to shut the two schools down unless the board agrees to allow BOCES to offer vocational classes there.
The move is unprecedented; while BOCES works as a a consortium of rural and suburban school districts, its vocational programs are not offered in Buffalo schools. But with graduation rates at both East and Lafayette near 30 percent, Commissioner John King has urged that they offer programs there to try and give students better options.
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School Board Member James Sampson:
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The district has also been working with consultants from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and could include their expertise in the plan. Earlier efforts to have Johns Hopkins operate several of the city''s schools on the state priority list fell through after the state determined the plans were not fleshed out with enough details, timetable or funding.
"State education intervention can only make us better," says Sam Radford, President of the district Parent Coordinating Council.
" It takes professionals who are responsible and holds them accountable to the professionals who know what they are supposed to be doing. So we are very pleased with state education department intervention," says Radford, whose group held a forum on the issue last night.
In the past, some school board members had bristled at the idea of state mandates saying that every plan they have submitted has been rejected by the state, arguing that essentially the district is being singled out. State officials deny that.
Last year the graduation rate in Buffalo was 46.8%. and dropped to 54% in 2012 . The statewide average is 74 percent.
The state education department also says " In Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, less than 10 percent of the students graduate ready for the challenges of college or today’s high skilled jobs."
A BOCES related curriculum would " make it possible for students to be both career and college ready," says Donald Ogilvie, superintendent of Erie 1 BOCES, the group that would be adding their vocational efforts into the Buffalo System. " I think we miss the boat if we focus too narrowly on academics."
In 19 districts across Erie County, Erie 1BOCES provides a range of vocational courses from colllision repair to cosmetology.