BUFFALO, N.Y. — With students approaching summer break, the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education wrapped up their last work session of the year.
It goes without saying, these past few years have been extremely challenging for school districts across the country. COVID-19 continues to pose challenges, as do rising concerns about school safety especially given the recent rise in mass shootings, and then there's the national labor shortage that has affected many industries.
Many districts have had to navigate the last few years short-staffed, from bus aides and drivers, to teachers to substitutes, to nurses and support staff alike.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams joined the board to address some issues and to hear concerns from community members.
Ongoing concerns related to school safety plans, recruitment, and transportation were brought up.
Dr. Williams said, as it relates to safety, her staff has been compiling data from each school to ensure all students, faculty and staff feel safe. The district also plans to put together an inclusive structured safety plan that will apply to all schools.
Given the recent rise in violence and mass shootings, board member Larry Scott agrees.
"We have to strike that balance of keeping our schools physically safe, but also addressing the social emotional needs of our kids and families," Scott said.
Another priority? Recruitment, which hasn't been easy.
"One of the things that we've been proactive or the district's been proactive about is renegotiating new contracts," Scott said. "Our bus aides have a relatively new contract, they're getting more money. We're talking to First Student to pay our bus drivers more money. You have to have the enticement to bring people in and we're doing open interviews for bus aides, for bus drivers, and for security as well, security staff."
Scott confirmed the district is also looking to make more improvements when it comes to diversifying curriculum, content and materials.