BUFFALO, NY- It appears a tentative deal has been reached on a disputed turnaround plan for two troubled Buffalo High Schools, which had been threatened with closure.
The plan will involve Johns Hopkins University as an educational partner organization (EPO), as the city school district had hoped, basically allowing Johns Hopkins to run Lafayette and East High Schools, as well as two others in the district.
NY State Education commissioner John King had rejected the plan several times previously.
King had also threatened to close those schools down if a complete and approvable plan had not been agreed to by 5pm Friday.
An agreement in principle was reached just shy of that deadline, according to New York Sate Regents Chancellor Emeritus Robert Bennett, who spoke with WGRZ-TV.
Bennett says agreement was hammered out during all day meetings in Albany between Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown, officials with Johns Hopkins, and high-ranking officials with the state education department.
"It's a good start," said Bennett. "We'll see how good the performance occurs. This should have been done months ago but let's take what we can get. They've been approved, and now we can make sure these kids get the sound basic education they've been guaranteed by the New York State Constitution."
"Now we can implement the EPO plan that Johns Hopkins proposed, which is outstanding," said Lisa Griffith, parent facilitator at Lafayette High School. Griffiths, whose job is to help get parents more involved in the education of their children, also has a son who will enter Lafayette as a freshman in September.
"Now we can get on with educating our students, and getting the resources that our students need," Griffiths told 2 On Your Side.
In a statement released by the state education department, spokesperson Jonathan Burman wrote:
"Department officials met today with members of the Buffalo Public Schools administrative team and the Johns Hopkins Talent Development Team to complete the various contracts, BOCES MOUs and required plans for East, Lafayette, BEST and School 80 EPO management structures. The Department has provided extensive technical assistance on these documents over the past month. By day's end, the majority of required plans and documents were in acceptable condition with Board president signatures, and additional student performance metrics remaining to be completed. The latter do not require substantive changes. Commissioner King's approval of these plans is still required.
The Department is pleased with the progress of today's meeting but remains concerned about effective implementation given the efforts required to complete these plans."
The Buffalo Board of Education will also have to sign off on the plan.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2