Sometimes Rod Watson is a Great Columnist

I don’t agree with everything Rod Watson writes.  Heck, sometimes I don’t think his columns are good at all.  Then there are times when Ros Watson is totally firing on all cylinders and is great…that was the case yesterday with his “Two-tiered district cries out for reform” column in the Buffalo News.

Mr. Watson tackles issues most people don’t want to talk about.

In a city that has a lot of poor people who are black and disproportionately not making the grade inside of a failing public school system, hard questions need to be asked about why this is.  Poverty and sub-par education go hand in hand in ensuring a cycle that keeps poor people poor from one generation to the next.

One of the goals of the Buffalo Public Schools should be to help lift students from this cycle, but it ain’t happening.

From the column…

When Buffalo Public Schools stakeholders lock themselves in a room for long-awaited confabs next month on how to reform this two-tiered district, one of the thorniest questions they should tackle is this:

Why is the upper tier disproportionately white?

According to the most recent state Education Department data, covering 2009-10, the district as a whole is 56 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic and 23 percent white.

But when you look at what are considered to be the upper echelon of Buffalo Public Schools, the numbers are reversed— in one case, dramatically so.

At City Honors School, which last week again made a Top 10 list of the nation’s best public schools, 67 percent of the students — nearly three times the district percentage — are white.

At Leonardo da Vinci High School, 43 percent of the students are white, while at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, whites make up 41 percent of the enrollment. Both figures nearly double the proportion of white students in the entire district.

The three institutions often are cited by parents who accuse the district of creating highly selective schools for the educational haves and other schools for the have-nots.

There are no easy answers.

The district and its leaders have continuously failed the poor and minorities.  I am sure there are students who have rose up out of the cycle, but this not the norm.

What can be done?  We need have a realistic talk about how to reform the district and offer alternatives. We need leadership that isn’t going to be content in trotting out City Honors every year when it makes a national list for best schools in the United States and patting itself on the back while many in the district fail miserably. We need to aspire to giving all children in Buffalo the best damn education they can receive regardless of what color they are, how poor they are, etc.

Buffalo…we are progressive community is many aspects. Why can’t we be a community that is progressive on how we turn around the Buffalo Public Schools?  If we spent as much time debating our schools as we do Canal Side or saving the Statler, maybe we could find answer.

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