Last Wednesday, I met with leaders of the Buffalo Immigrant Leadership Team (BILT). It was a real and deep dialogue on the needs and challenges of our immigrant students and families in Buffalo Public Schools. BPS has well over 5,000 English Language Learners (ELLs), speaking 84 different languages and coming from 97 countries. The prevailing message was advocating for increased state funding, training, and certification of bilingual teachers, beyond Spanish, to include Arabic, Nepali, and Karen, to name a few. BILT is requesting that BPS hire 15 additional bilingual teachers by the end of the 2019-20 school year. I committed my support to this request as a parent leader and BOE candidate.
We also discussed the importance of our Strong Community Schools and the need for evening and Saturday opportunities for families and working parents. Due to the advocacy of BILT, Lafayette Community High School now offers a Saturday Academy almost every Saturday a month.
We had an open dialogue on disciplinary practices and the use of suspension in our schools. I had the opportunity to discuss my role as an Alternative to Suspension Specialist in Ken-Ton Schools and what I believe is needed to provide real alternatives to suspension in BPS.
I also discussed the BPS Parent Congress and how BILT could apply for a parent group to be recognized by the BOE and then included in the Parent Congress and its shared decision making opportunities.
Lastly, we discussed inequity in access for ELL students with Gifted and Talented opportunities and criterion-based schools.
I look forward to partnering with BILT to move Buffalo Schools forward for all of our students, including our immigrant and ELL students.