BUFFALO, N.Y. — Increasing achievement, accelerating learning, and improving school security are three of the five goals that the Buffalo Public School District and Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams say will lead Western New York's largest school district on a new path over the next three years.
The goals were laid out during Dr. Williams' first annual State of the Schools address held Friday at City Honors.
District leaders presented an overall uplifting message about new initiatives that they plan to implement from 2022-2025. That includes one to improve reading proficiency in grades 3Y to grade 3 and another to redesign Buffalo's secondary alternative schools to focus more on college prep.
While uplifting, leaders did not shy away from addressing existing challenges such as school safety, the nationwide teacher shortage, and bussing issues. Dr. Williams was asked about the district's recent survey about a plan to reimburse parents for driving their kids to school.
“We are still pulling the data and it would be a pilot it would not be for all it would start small and make sure that we get it right,” she said.
Dr. Williams added that BPS has been “proactively” informing parents to be prepared for possible transportation delays to start the year. She said parents can download an app from First Student, the district’s bus contractor, to track this child’s bus in real-time. The app is called ‘First View’ and is available for download on both Apple and Android devices.
Dr. Williams had the following message for potential bus aides and drivers.
“We continue to look for more bus aides and drivers … so if you know people who are looking for good viable jobs, we in BPS are hiring so please send them our way,” Dr. Williams said.
Goal 4 for the new Buffalo Public Schools Strategic Plan is "Amplify All Voices and Cultivate Trust." Goal 5 is to "Activate Partnerships."
After two years of pandemic learning, last year's incident outside McKinley High School, and the tragedy at Tops on Jefferson Avenue three months ago another realization was expressed by several district leaders.
“We're in different times," she said.
The district highlighted several security improvements some of which will be in place on Sept. 6 when students return to school, others will be implemented over time.
“We have ordered metal detectors,” Dr. Williams said. “They will not be here for the start of the school year but what they can expect is that there will be security checks at all our high schools for all of our children."
When asked about safety measures at the elementary and middle level she said, “that may be coming down the line."
BPS has hired more security staff who were trained over the summer and have an updated Code of Conduct according to Dr. Williams. The district has also set out to form a new department of school safety.
Dr. Williams also warned parents that with their child’s education as the district’s priority, violent behavior will not be tolerated.
“While we are restorative and we are providing trauma-informed supports, any acts of extreme violence will be dealt with very swiftly, very severely."