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First Day of School: Convocation from Dr. James Williams

Today marks the first day back for Buffalo Public School children and staff.  Yesterday, Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Williams addressed BPS employees.  His speech, calling to students and staff to “refuse to be average,” is as follows:


I
will begin my fifth year serving as your Superintendent and I am excited to
begin another academic year.  I’m
proud of the academic success and great strides we have made thanks to your
hard work and dedication to the children of our great City.  We are a District on the rise and we
are a District moving in the right direction.

In
years past the Buffalo Public School District faced many challenges.  It was my mission as your
Superintendent to work with the Board of Education, staff, and the community to
assist us and improve the quality of education in our schools, makes our
District strong, and charts a path towards academic success.

I’ve
been in public education more than 40 years as a teacher, principal,
administrator, and superintendent. 
I have never worked with such a stronger, smarter, and dedicated
individuals that we have in place. 
I’m proud of our team, our central office staff that helped us put a
plan in place to reach the high levels of academic achievement that has been
the hallmark of my tenure as Superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools.

It
is my responsibility to make sure we had a strong organization and the right
team to rebuild and move on a new course, one that would make our students,
parents, and City, proud.

While
I am looking forward to a new school year with a high level of enthusiasm,
energy, and optimism, I would like to share with you and celebrate some of the
academic, athletic, and financial achievements of the past school year.  It’s important to be aware of our
strong and steady growth so we can continue to prosper and move forward on this
path of academic success.

Let’s start with the great news
that ten Buffalo Public Schools being removed from the New York State Watch
List for meeting academic benchmarks for increased student achievement two
years in a row.  They are: 

  • School #11
  • School #19
  • School #31
  • School #32
  • School #74
  • School #82
  • School #91
  • School #93
  • School
    #99..and the
  • Buffalo
    Academy for Visual and Performing Arts

Let’s give those schools a round
of applause…

Our team created and implemented
an Academic Achievement Plan that was focused on raising student achievement
across the District.  Teachers:
you deserve great credit for working hard in the classroom and for your dedication
towards the noble goal of providing children the best education
possible.  We raised the bar
academically and created a culture of expecting strong academic results from
our students. 

I’m
also very proud of our steady progress in Mathematics.

Mathematics
testing data showed 63% of Buffalo Public Schools third-through-eighth grade
students are now scoring at or above the New York State standard compared to
29% of students in the 2005-2006 school year.  That represents a 117% increase in mathematics test scores
over a four-year period.

We
could not accomplish this without strong teachers in the classroom doing the
great job of implementing our Academic Achievement Plan. Good teachers, good
administrators, good parents, and good students can overcome any barriers that
hinder academic progress.

I
would like to thank our curriculum and instruction staff under the leadership
of Deputy Superintendent Dr. Folasede Oladele.  I would also like to thank our math coaches and math
teachers for your hard work and dedication towards providing the children of
Buffalo the best education possible.

The
increase in English Language Arts test scores was just as impressive. 

ELA
testing data shows 54% of Buffalo Public Schools third-through-eighth grade
students are now scoring at or above the New York State standard compared to 30
% of students in the 2005-2006 school year.  That represents an 81% increase in ELA test scores over a
four-year period.

This
gradual increase in ELA test scores proves the Academic Achievement Plan is
working and the numerous reforms we put in place are moving this District in
the right direction. The continued increase in English Language Arts test
scores is the direct result of numerous academic reforms and initiatives in the
Academic Achievement Plan.

Once
again I would like to thank our curriculum and instruction staff under the
leadership of Deputy Superintendent Dr. Folasede Oladele and thank our reading
coaches and English teachers who are committed to implementing our Academic
Achievement Plan.  They deserve
praise for the increase in ELA test scores.

One
of the signs that we are moving our District in the right direction is that we
are moving the “bottom” up.  What I
mean by that is when I first came to Buffalo parents had the misconception that
there were very few schools good enough for their children to attend.  If they didn’t get into certain schools
they would pursue other options. Some felt they could not get a good education
in Buffalo Public Schools.

There
were two impressive academic achievements this past school year that show we
are making steady progress and “moving the bottom up” across the District.   First came news that six Buffalo
Public Schools were removed from the SURR list, or the Schools Under
Registration Review.  Those schools
are:

  • School
    #18
  • School
    #19
  • School
    #53
  • School
    #61
  • School
    #74
  • School
    #79

I
would like to thank Community Superintendent Fran Wilson for a job well done 

Second
came news that this past year’s graduating class earned what is believed to be
the most scholarship dollars ever in Buffalo Public School District: $21.8
million.  We have experienced
steady growth over my tenure as your Superintendent in students receiving
scholarship money.  It has almost
doubled over the past four years.

The
most impressive growth in students earning scholarships was at Burgard High
School, where graduating seniors received $1.6 million, the fourth largest
earnings of our 13 high schools across the district.

Please
keep in mind I am proud of all Buffalo Public School students but am especially
pleased with the academic progress taking place at Burgard High School.  The academic progress taking place at
Burgard shows that we are raising the bar academically in every high school
across the district.  Their
school’s salutatorian earned a full scholarship worth $150,000 to the
prestigious Wells College.

Our
graduation rate is on the rise: up seven percent from the previous academic
year. 

I’m
so proud of our academic achievements, and this year, by far, was our best in
my four years as Superintendent.  Remember
I’m the captain leading the ship. 
To use a musical analogy I’m simply directing the choir.  All of you are the reasons why we are a
District on the rise and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for
working so hard day in and day out to provide the children of Buffalo the best
education possible:

Teachers

Custodians

Bus Aides

Bus Drivers

Teacher Aides

Building Engineers

Clerical Staff

Administrators

Cafeteria Staff

Laborers

Maintenance

Food Service Staff

Building Safety

Principals

Members of the
Board of Education

Central Office
Staff..

And our Community
Superintendents: Dr. Frazier, Dr. Battaglia, Dr. Melvin, and Fran Wilson.

It’s
important to point out that we could not accomplish these achievements without
a very supportive board.

People
around the state and around the country are starting to take notice of our
academic success and financial stability. 
The Buffalo Public School District is being used as an example of
success here at home, across New York, and across the nation.

When
the state released our mathematics test scores that showed 63% of
third-through-eighth grade students scored at or above the New York State
standard, the New York State Education Commissioner at the time, Richard Mills,
used our results as a model of success for district’s across the state,
prompting this headline in the Buffalo News:

“State
Views Buffalo Schools as Model of Academic Improvement”

That
was followed by the headline:

“Buffalo
Schools Share in Math Gains”

The
Council of the Great City Schools, a national organization of the largest
school districts in the United States, twice recognized the Buffalo Public
School District this year for academic and financial achievements.

First, Buffalo Public Schools Deputy
Superintendent Dr. Folasade Oladele received the 2009 Council of the Great City
Schools Education Curriculum Leadership Award.  This prestigious honor recognized Dr. Oladale’s leadership
and commitment to the children of the Buffalo Public School District.  This is a wonderful distinction and
recognition for our Deputy Superintendent and the entire Buffalo Public School
District family.

Under the leadership of our Deputy
Superintendent and our entire academic team numerous reform initiatives have
taken place in the district that greatly enhanced the quality of education that
children are receiving in the City of Buffalo, including:

  • Elimination
    of social promotion
  • Longer
    school day and year at SIDD’s schools
  • Expansion
    of AP and college level courses at all high schools
  • PSAT
    for all 9th grade students
  • Expansion
    of foreign language to include Mandarin Chinese and Latin
  • Double
    periods of ELA instruction for students in need of academic intervention
  • Additional
    period of Mathematics instruction every other day for students in need of
    academic intervention
  • Creation
    of Extended Learning Opportunities by adding 20 days to the school year
  • Smaller
    class sizes, with a ten-to-one pupil/teacher ratio in some classrooms
  • Addition
    of math and reading coaches
  • Expansion
    of IB programs at Makowski School and City Honors High School

The Council of the Great City Schools also
recognized the Buffalo Public School District for our strong financial
management of district resources.

We
were named a “top performer” nationally in financial management. I am proud that
an independent, national organization recognized the strong financial
management in the Buffalo Public School District.  Every student, parent, teacher, administrator, and Board
member should be proud of this national recognition.

I
am proud to have additional teachers in the classroom.

Even
in these challenging economic times members of our Western New York Assembly
and Senate delegation were able to secure funding to complete the fifth and
final phase of the Joint Schools Construction Project, the largest economic and
development project in the history of the City of Buffalo.

Many
thanks to our Chief Financial Officer Bard Smith for her financial leadership.

Towards
the end of our school year we opened the newly renovated Bennett Park
Montessori School, a $28 million, 55,000 square foot renovation that placed
schools #32 and #78 under one roof.

We
also opened the newly renovated Hillery Park Academy in South Buffalo. a $17
million, 94,000 square foot facility. 
Both of those projects were part of Phase III of our reconstruction
initiative.

There
will be five schools with newly reconstructed buildings opening for the first
day of school tomorrow.  They are:

South
Park High School: $39 million

Burgard
High School: $38 million

School
#76: $22 million

School
#45: $28 million

School
# 43: $24 million

Reconstruction
is underway at both Riverside and City Honors High School and both are expected
to open in 2010.  The combined
projects alone are more than $72 million. 
The new “All High Swimming Pool” is being built at City Honors.  Through a partnership with Medaille
College, Riverside will become a health care, finance, and banking academies
where students will literally learn in an office-like setting.  Traditional classrooms are being
replaced with a hospital setting and business offices.  You’ll feel like you’re entering a
professional office or health care center.

In
all, Phase III of the Joint Schools Construction Project will be a $326 million
investment in the Buffalo economy.

The
investment in our children and our facilities will not end there.  Ten schools will be reconstructed as
part of Phase IV of this historical project for a total investment of $320
million. Schools that will be reconstructed in Phase IV are:

  • School #3
  • School #17
  • School #54
  • School #72
  • School #81
  • School #84
  • School #93
  • Math
    Science Technology Preparatory School at Seneca
  • Olmsted at
    Kensington…and
  • McKinley
    High School

We
have worked very hard with our legislative leaders in Albany to secure funding
for Phase V, a $195 million investment in the City of Buffalo.  Schools that will be reconstructed in
our final phase are:

  • School #18
  • School #53
  • School #59
  • School #61
  • School #64
  • School
    #65…and
  • International
    Preparatory School at Grover

Representatives
from school districts across the state and country are using our reconstruction
project as a model of success to start their own development projects.  While other school districts in New
York State are just beginning their respective reconstruction, every child in
the Buffalo Public School District will receive a quality education in a newly
renovated school by the year 2013.

The
investment in our infrastructure is important.  Teachers should have the technological teaching tools like
interactive whiteboards to improve teaching and learning.  Through Phase IV the Buffalo Public
School District will have made a $194 million investment in new technology:
interactive whiteboards, new computers for students and teachers, new printers,
and security cameras in our buildings.

Now
that we have experienced strong academic and financial growth in the Buffalo
Public School District, let us set our sights this year on thinking of
ourselves as a strong, and soaring jumbo jet, rather than a big ship that takes
time to be turned in the right direction.

A.W.
Tozer once said: “Refuse to be average. 
Let your heart soar as high as it will.” 

Refuse
to be average.  Set the bar
high.  Set high expectations for
yourselves and especially for your students.  Do not expect or settle for failure.  Let your heart soar as high as it will
knowing our mission is a noble one: educating the children of our great city.

We
will not let them down.

I
played baseball in college and remember how bad I felt to get called for a
third strike without taking a shot, without swinging the bat.  This school year do not take your third
strike.  Swing the bat this year,
go for it, and give it your best shot. 
Set your sights on excellence and I promise you, your students will do
the same.  Thank you for taking the
time to listen to our 2009 Convocation. 
Have a great opening day and a great school year.

 

 

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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