Buffalo School Board elections take place today, and both the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and Grassroots Buffalo (a decades-old, predominantly African American coalition) have come out in favor of the same 3 at large school board incumbents: Dr. Catherine Collins, Florence Johnson and Christopher Jacobs.
In an election that has a typically low voter turnout--less than 5 percent of registered voters--many a school board race is decided by very small margins, sometimes far less than 100 votes.
The Partnership's choice of candidates, according to President and CEO Andrew Rudnik, "are the best qualified to manage the schools' $600+ million budget, will stand up in favor of reform in the system and are not beholden to the efforts of Buffalo Teacher Federation President Philip Rumore -- which for too long have obstructed the change that is in the best interest of Buffalo's school children."
While the Partnership's endorsement hinges largely on the ability to improve graduation rates, thus keeping more students in school and creating a pool of viable candidates for the region's workforce, Grassroots is concentrating more on the Three Year Academic Achievement Plan already put in place that they would like to see carried forward with no interruption in administration.
Grassroots Buffalo gave high marks to the same 3 candidates, and put forth a statement saying, " Several candidates rose above the others who were interviewed and displayed a clear understanding and dedication to the School District's Three-Year Academic Achievement Plan, encouraging and utilizing professional development for the staff, extended time on task, enhanced use of literacy across the curriculum, and implementing the use of proven academic tools and resources such as Harcourt Trophies, Voyager Passport and Direct Instruction.
A change in the school board now, according to Peter Simon of The Buffalo News could mean an early end to Superintendent Dr. James Williams' tenure in Buffalo, and both the Partnership and Grassroots believes that an interruption at this time would spell trouble for plans put in place by Williams that they say have already shown "steady progress and success."
In making its endorsements, The Partnership outlined the following targeted data that they believe Williams, with the support of Collins, Johnson and Jacobs, is most likely to have an impact on:
1). Buffalo is our region's core -- and the success or failure of the Buffalo Public Schools is directly linked to how the city fares. Currently:
· Buffalo is the nation's third-poorest city, according to the U.S. Census.
· The Buffalo metro area has the highest black male jobless rate (51.4 percent) among American's 35 large cities, according to figures cited by Professor Marc V. Levine of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
· Nearly two-thirds of adults in Buffalo function at the two lowest levels of literacy, meaning they can't function at the minimum level of literacy employers in our region require for any job higher than entry level.
· Thirty-five percent of Buffalo Public School children don't graduate high school.
2). At a time when many students are not graduating from high school prepared for postsecondary education and work, 60 percent of the new jobs being created require advanced training or a college education. If our region's workforce can't meet employer needs, we will lose existing companies, and will not be able to recruit new businesses to invest in our region.
3). The availability of high-quality human talent is a top issue facing businesses today. Nationwide, business leaders increasingly place improving public education at the top of their list of priorities because they believe the education system in the United States fails to produce graduates prepared to compete both locally and in a global economy.