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Buffalo School Board Members Seek To Strip Parent Group's Powers

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Buffalo Public School Board members may have a warning for those school districts lamenting the lack of parent involvement in their communities: Be careful what you wish for.

The Western New York school district has three organized and vocal parent groups competing to be Buffalo's key critic, chief advocate, and most influential partner, according to the Buffalo News.

Apparently weary of criticism from one of them, the District Parent Coordinating Council, a majority of current board members want to downgrade this district-recognized parent group to make parent-engagement efforts in the city more "inclusive," the article noted.

The parents' council and the school board have had a testy relationship. While the council approved the district's comprehensive plan, the group also has sought help from the New York State Education Department when parents weren't advised of school improvement and grant spending plans. The Buffalo News reports that council complaints led the state to withhold $36 million in grants.

Still, the council's authority may be restored this summer. According to the story, a new board majority, which is supportive of the parents' council, will begin serving their term in July.

Meanwhile, two more parent-engagement groups are competing for a voice in Buffalo.

Founded in November, the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization is promoting the district's positive achievements and encouraging parent involvement. The 200-member group won a $500,000 National Education Association grant with assistance from New York State United Teachers and the Buffalo Teachers Federation to mount a multi-media public relations campaign. "Buffalo Schools: Believe!" touts the districts' improvements and highlights students' success.

The third group, We the Parents Buffalo, appears to be more advocacy-oriented than the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization. The Buffalo News reports that We the Parents Buffalo held a protest and vigil last month. The group's members threatened an "all-night sit-in" during a school board meeting in April, if Superintendent Pamela C. Brown and board members did not meet with them. The meeting was granted. We the Parents Buffalo, which began organizing in March, plans to hold a rally in September to demand better educational opportunities for all students.

It's unclear whether these parent groups can peacefully co-exist without sending mixed messages about the current status and future of Buffalo's public schools and students. Still, the general idea is that engaging more Buffalo parents in their children's education will generate more benefits than pitfalls.

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