Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Is NYSED Commissioner John King Setting Up For State Takeover Of Buffalo?

Yesterday we learned that NYSED Commissioner John King is threatening to revoke the registrations of two turnaround schools in Buffalo, Lafayette and East high schools, unless the district accedes to his demands and sends students at those two BPS schools to a BOCES outside of Buffalo for vocational classes on the BPS dime.

Both of those high schools had been partnering with Johns Hopkins University "to prepare the schools for a full implementation of the university’s turnaround model" and Charles Hiteshew, head of Johns Hopkins’ educational “talent development” program for middle and high schools, told the Buffalo News that “Those schools have been tremendous partners to work with."

Hiteshew went on to say that he saw no problems at either the school or district levels that "would  suggest that the university could not successfully serve as the lead administrators of Lafayette and East next school year."

But NYSED Commissioner is threatening to pull the plug on the turnaround funding for both of these schools and forcing them to send students outside of the district for vocational classes because King says "the district is simply incapable of providing a quality program there.”

Charles Hiteshew, head of Johns Hopkins’ educational “talent development” program for middle and high schools, differs with NYSED Commissioner King on that statement and told Buffalo News that “For us to pull the plug on this at this time would be devastating."

But that's just what NYSED Commissioner King plans to do, regardless of what the school leaders and staffs at Lafayette and East say, regardless of what district leaders in Buffalo say, regardless of what the turnaround specialists at Johns Hopkins say.

King's move to strip the schools of turnaround funding and send students outside of the district for vocational classes has some in Buffalo wondering if there isn't an ulterior motive behind the NYSED attack on Buffalo.

Pineapple Hare noted the following in my post on the Buffalo/King matter yesterday:

Our local charter mavens have had their eye on East High School for a while. They tried to do a 'conversion charter' last year but the alumni and local people would not let that happen. East High School is a beautifully renovated building with a highly regarded science lab. King would like nothing more that a 'conversion charter' to add to his resume and the local charter folks would like nothing more than to get their hands on this valuable building.

So King is creating a bit of chaos and hoping that while the dust is settling, his lawyer and corporate charter friends can complete the work that they began last year, even though they are NOT wanted.

Sean Crowley expanded on that point in his comment:

Last year they set up a meeting to discuss stealing East and another building with very valuable lakefront real estate next door to some apartments that are about to become gentrified.

While it seems quite plausible that King is fronting for his charter school buddies to eventually take over both the Lafayette and East buildings with his help, some in Buffalo wonder if he isn't setting his sights even higher - an entire district takeover.

In today's Buffalo News, we learn this:

A mandate from the state education commissioner that students in two low-performing Buffalo public schools take classes outside the district was met with cheers from some stakeholders, while others questioned the proposed remedy and requested that the district be given more time to turn around the schools.

Reaction from Board of Education members, city officials and state legislators ranged from impatience with the district’s poor performance to confusion about what the mandate means and a desire for the district’s efforts during the last year to be recognized.

And some wondered if this means the state is preparing to completely take over the district.

Given that progress has been made at both of those schools, at least according to turnaround specialist Charles Hiteshew, given that King's "solution" for the problems at Lafayette and East is causing more confusion and chaos than anything else (even a supporter of King's attack on BPS, Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, said“I’m not sure his solution is adequate for the problem.”), and given that King and his NYSED people have launched unprecedented attacks against BPS officials, calling them "insane" and "preposterous", you have to wonder if that isn't the rationale behind all of this.

Take a look at the language King uses in his attacks on BPS:

“Far too many students have been educationally abandoned, their futures cast into distress by the poor academic services they have received,” King said. “I am compelled to take action. The steps I am taking today are unprecedented in New York State, but the situation at these schools, which continues to hurt hundreds of students, cannot continue.”

That's the line of attack King is using for the state to step in and direct what is going to happen at these two Buffalo schools, but it also can be used as a line of attack on the district as a whole.

As I wrote yesterday, King and his boss, Andrew Cuomo, are pissed at Buffalo for making a side agreement with the Buffalo Teachers Federation over the new APPR evaluation system that would restrict its use in high stakes employment decisions for one year.

While that agreement has been declared null and void by BPS after King threatened to withhold funding from the district and after Cuomo called the agreement something akin to "legal and ethical fraud," the BTF has now taken the district to court to have the agreement reinstated.

BPS officials wondered yesterday why King is so aggressive in taking on "failing" schools in Buffalo but acts with restraint with "failing" schools in other cities.

There can be little doubt that the pushback King and NYSED have gotten from the Buffalo Teachers Federation on the state's reformy nonsense like the APPR teacher evaluation system is playing a role in these NYSED attacks on the district.

I don't doubt that the charter community has had their eye on East and Lafayette and Waterfront for a while now and King is doing his best to help them get their greedy hands on the real estate.

But the vitriolic language King is using to talk about these issues in Buffalo suggests that there is more to this than a simple land grab.

Could it be that King is eying a state takeover of the entire district in order to destroy the Buffalo Teachers Federation and end the one counterattack he has gotten from a state union on his reformy nonsense?

While that may seem like a far-fetched idea, looking at how King is treating East and Lafayette, forcing "solutions" onto these schools that even King supporters say will cause chaos and confusion and undercutting the turnaround efforts that Johns Hopkins officials say are going well, all the while attacking district leaders as "insane", you have wonder.

Clearly whatever is behind King's aggressive attacks on BPS, it's not about the kids.


  1. Before race politics brought our current empty skirt to Superintendency we had an interim lifelong Buffalonian educator named Amber Dixon. As Super she attended an APPR in service at one of our high schools and told us sotto voce " there won't be any takeover, they don't WANT a takeover, it's too much work for one thing... The idea that they could take it over and King would be exposed in full for the incompetent, petty toady that he is strikes me as the upside of a state takeover. Truth be told though I doubt he's up for the fight cause he'd have one on every conceivable level he's ever imagined and quite a few more he hasn't. Bring it on fool is about what I am feeling these days.

    1. I don't think they want a takeover either. State takeovers have been a miserable failure in Jersey. But there has been lots of money to be made in those state takeovers by the privatizers, so who knows ultimately what lurks in John King's colonized mind. After all, he just carries out the orders he gets from his oligarchical masters.