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I am proud to say that I am a bred and born Buffaloian. I am also proud to say that I am a product of the Buffalo Public School System. A great deal of my success in life can be directly connected to my teachers at Lafayette High School and the lessons they taught me there. I come from a family of educators. My mother, my brother Herb, my son Eric, my daughter Nicole and several other family members are or have been educators. My first job, after earning my Master’s Degree from the University of Buffalo, was teaching at Bennett High School. No doubt I have a lifelong connection and devotion to the Buffalo Public Schools. It is heart wrenching to witness the school system that guided my success now failing our children. It is unacceptable and something I will change when I take the oath of office to serve as Buffalo’s Mayor. In a community known as, “The City of Good Neighbors”, we must see every child as one of our own. Together we must fight for the standard of education that all of our children need and deserve. Together we must ensure that every child has the ability to become a successful and contributing member of our community.
EDUCATION CRISIS IN BUFFALO
The Need for a Better Choice Proper education is one of the most basic elements of quality of life in a community. Buffalo Public Schools have become a national disgrace with an unacceptable graduation rate of 53.1% and a troubling dropout rate of one in every five students. 27,000 children in Buffalo attend failing schools in all; as of the newly released Common Core State Assessment results, about 10% of children are on a path for success for high school, college, or career. This means that the overwhelming majority of students about 90% of children are not. In August 2013, the Education Commissioner said that Buffalo’s achievement levels are DIRE.
Families and children are active in demanding better, the Buffalo School District received 2200 requests from students asking to be transferred from their failing schools. The District response was insufficient, allowing for only 200 students to be transferred to better schools and forcing 2000 students to remain in failing schools. The city provides 70 million of taxpayer’s dollars to the Buffalo Public School Budget. For that investment, City Hall, as a representative of the people, should be mandating (at a minimum) a voice among WHILE THE CURRENT FORMATS OF THE BUFFALO PUBLIC the Board of Education and among SCHOOLS AND THE BOARD OF Buffalo’s educators and school leadership. EDUCATION DO NOT DIRECTLY
INVOLVE THE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR, WHEN I AM ELECTED, I WILL NOT USE THAT AS AN EXCUSE TO STAND BY AND WATCH THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN AND OF OUR COMMUNITY CRUMBLE WITHIN A FAILING SCHOOL SYSTEM. – BERNIE TOLBERT
A Better Choice: THE TOLBERT PLAN
The biggest barrier to improving the public education for Buffalo’s children is the unwillingness of leadership to be accountable and implement major changes for the sake of children—I am the leader unafraid to be accountable for failures and solutions. Lack of vision and a distorted picture of progress from City Hall has delayed responsiveness to problems. Board dysfunction and district leadership instability has impacted the District’s ability to commit to a public education reform agenda that realizes the benefits from State and Federal monies. The current leadership has failed to demonstrate capacity for developing acceptable plans to improve schools and build effective partnerships with the State Education Department. There have been only limited provisions to truly support the development of high performing educators and no efforts to provide incentives for high performing educators and school leaders to have a greater impact in low performing schools. Labor relations have been stagnated for years which has been harmful for teachers and students. Inattention to efforts that would mitigate factors like poverty, health, transportation, and hunger have only helped to extinguish hope in the community for a better public school system. My plan will: Advocate for structural and operational changes to achieve greater accountability and transparency; Create a positive education climate and culture to transform our community into a place where educational success is attainable for every child; Make strategic investments that are inextricably tied to all of City Hall’s efforts. As Mayor, fixing the education crisis in Buffalo will be my number one priority and these efforts will restore the reputation of Buffalo Public Schools and decrease the number of children attending failing schools within my first term.
TOLBERT – 3 POINT PLAN
POINT 1- STRUCTURAL & OPERATIONAL CHANGES WITHIN BUFFALO PUBLIC SCHOOLS Establish an effective partnership between the mayor’s office and Buffalo Public Schools to maximize public and private sector support for public education and facilitate greater transparency and accountability of BOE operations.
• Appoint a qualified Deputy Mayor for children and schools who is responsible for oversight from the Mayor’s office and driving action for student success; • Facilitate the development of an acceptable turnaround plan for all of Buffalo’s poor performing schools; • Improve education climate in Buffalo and establish positive relationships outside of Buffalo, specifically with the State Education Department; • Support through resource allocation and policy, School Board training and professional development in order to facilitate a culture of highly trained trustees; • Facilitate joint strategic planning between City and BOE; • Implement a dashboard and reporting structure that tracks and monitors the city’s funding and its impact on school achievement and tracks schools’ progress on improving student outcomes; • Advocate for changes to operating procedures to ensure BOE is accessible and parents have direct influence and voice. For example, requiring the BOE to hold board meetings at schools in each of the six school districts; • In the first 100 days of my administration, I will seek passage of a ballot initiative granting mayoral authority to appoint members to the Buffalo Board of Education; • Support legislation that empowers community groups and parents to instantly gain access to better schools through school choice; • Ensure per pupil funding flows from the district to choice schools without political barriers; • Influence transportation to reduce absenteeism by working with the Buffalo Public Schools and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) to allow and enable student’s ability to use public transportation before, during and after school hours; • Reuse our school buildings for high performing schools, including charter schools; • Support replication of high performing schools and diversify the type of high quality schools in BPS portfolio.
POINT 2- CHANGES TO THE CULTURE SURROUNDING EDUCATION IN BUFFALO
Implement cultural changes that raise the visibility of education in Buffalo to focus our attention on not just our successes and failures, but viable solutions. Ensure that the City supports residents who believe in the long term success of our children and take personal and professional responsibility for their futures.
• Embed and cultivate the vision that every child can be successful in college and career by any and all activities, seminars, and campaigns; • Publicize accountability standing and celebrate success for all schools; • Leverage the Mayor’s office to create collaboration and transfer of best practices from other cities, both those with and without mayoral control (NYC, EDC) (Cleveland, Baltimore, LA); • Create a mentoring program operating out of the Mayor’s Office where business, faith based and community leaders can interact with students and serve as resources and role models; • Create college and career expos for children ages four through twenty-five; • Monthly press releases on progress of poorest performing schools that also include parent and student perspectives; • Reading, math and technology literacy progress monitoring and direct support for programs from the Mayor’s office; • Collaborate with educational program providers that support students and families “at risk” including those: with disabilities; who are court and welfare system involved; English language learners; Black; Hispanic; Latino; Native American; economically disadvantaged; and, over aged and under credited.
POINT 3- IMPACTFUL STRATEGIC INVESTMENT ALIGNED WITH OTHER COMPREHENSIVE EFFORTS
Create policies and practices that support strategic investment in early childhood education, quality improvement, and training. Make strategic investments that connect to the broader goals of the city including, but not limited to, economic development, infrastructure and safety.
• Support and fund Universal pre-k and k-4 programs; • Establish a foundation and grant making entity within the Mayor’s office in order to seek private and philanthropic contributions as well as maximize city, state and federal monies for strategic investment. • Improve safety in schools and school neighborhoods. Deputy Mayor of Education and Mayor will have a schedule that will ensure they are a physical presence at high risk schools in order to conduct a real-time evaluation of effectiveness of safety strategies deployed; • Strategic investment to bridge the gap between access to technology and telecommunications and education. For example, put an e-reader, tablet or laptop in every backpack; • Increase access to free wifi hotspots in high need neighborhoods. Establish free wifi, broadband, telecommunication and computer educational learning centers in high need neighborhoods; • Advocate for financial and staffing resources to extend library hours. Increase access to transportation to and from neighborhood learning centers and libraries; • Create a comprehensive education-cycle for Buffalo school children including: after school programs, tutoring, and guidance for city school kids. Also, working with ECC and other schools to improve access to scholarship, employment, and financial opportunities; • Use funds to keep schools open longer to provide services to decrease the impact of poverty, crime, nutrition, health, continuing and adult education, and improve parent empowerment and involvement; • Create partnerships with national groups to support teacher and principal quality and create incentives and bonus pay programs for individual teachers and school leaders with successful track records that take on assignments in low performing schools; • Create new teacher mentor program and be an advocate for retaining high quality teachers despite the years of experience and time they are hired.
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