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A legacy of neglect: Puerto Rican students as Williams contract termination considered

August 10, 2011

On March 10, 2010,  on his Outrages & Insights blog, James Heaney wrote about the bickering on the graduation rates of Buffalo Students whether it showed progress or stagnation between former State Ed Commissioner David Steiner and Superintendent Williams.

Heaney wrote  about the alarming  low graduation rates of Latino students in the graduating class of 2009.  He wrote, “The numbers are depressing, regardless of the racial group, and especially bad among Hispanics. The graduated-on-time percentage for them was 45 percent, the dropout rate 32 percent…  blacks, it’s 55/23…whites, 64/21.”

That’s a 32% drop-out rate for Latinos compared to 23% for African-Americans and 21% for whites certainly  not promising statistics for these students.Yet the Latinos had the worst  percentage  at 32%, the official number, while others say it was higher.

And, the graduation figures released for both group on 2010, one year later the stats plummeted especially for Latinos the rates nearly holding steady during Williams’ tenure–40%, 43% and 40% in 2008, 2009, 2010 respectively.

Last year the Council on Great City Schools report on the Raising the Academic Achievement of English Language Learners in the Buffalo Public Schools  cited:

“The high school completion rates in comparison with ELLs in New York State were as dismal.  ”ELLs in Buffalo have less than half the graduation rate of ELLs in New York State:  21 vs 55 percent.” And ” the district appears to have no pathway toward graduation for ELLs who enter the system in ninth grade or afterwards.”

The district literally overlooked these students under the leadership of Williams…“miss” these students  didn’t …notice they were here…  (or) modify… a successful program to ensure these (students) could succeed, and didn’t create an effective system to reach out to those communities,” it reported.

It’s interesting  the same  graduating class in 2009 cited here, “during a download of data the Council on Great City Schools team indicated in  its report how nearly 100 English language learners in the district had not received bilingual or ESL services at all during most of the 2008-09 school year” an alarming statistic for Hispanic leaders. And a plausible reason for the low graduation and drop-out rates for this time period among the Latinos students besides the large number enrolled in special education.

Some in the community wonder if the School Board should have continued or at least had the opportunity to vote on the discharge”for cause” resolution at-large member John Licata introduced  with the “no fault” one before he had second thoughts and the board voted not to even consider it when they discussed what option to use in his contract to terminate  Superintendent James Williams at the Tuesday afternoon meeting.

And some wonder if the lack of Williams hiring knowledgable school leaders from this community had an impact on the dismal graduation and drop-out rates of these students. There were hardly any Latinos in Williams inner circle of advisors his cabinet. And the one he had appointed didn’t have the background to help with these students except the director of multilingual education not a cabinet position.

And  the report cited problems with the community superintendents leadership  in general, including those with responsibility for…where many ELLS attended schools as exhibited very limited knowledge of ELLS or their performance…,” leaving it up to individual principals some “unfamiliar with bilingual/ESL programs or instructional approaches behind them.”

Yet  the scores on the state-wide English Language Arts and Math tests the State Ed folks released on May  2011, showed  the schools where English Language Learners and Latinos enrolled are at the bottom though there are a few exceptions.

So it’s troubling to some leaders in this community that Superintendent Williams walks out the district with $110,000 plus 60% life-time health care benefits  for himself and spouse, while New York State taxpayers foot the bill in perpetuity.  What about his legacy of neglect?

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