BUFFALO - Two members of the New York State Assembly are urging State Education Commissioner John King to make direct contact with parents and students of East and Lafayette high schools.
Sean Ryan, along with fellow Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes, held a press conference at 3:30 p.m. at East High School to ask King to gather input from all parties involved in the two schools he has mandated the Buffalo Public School District to fix. In a letter this month, King told the district it must design a plan to either allow students at East and Lafayette to transfer to vocational schools or give BOCES control of the schools.
In a meeting at East High School, a few speakers during the public comment period criticized King for his mandate. One Lafayette High School student said the district should not "bow down to the state commissioner," instead claiming that district leaders know more about reforming their schools than the state. Another man called for King's resignation.
The district's deadline to formulate an official plan is Aug. 12.
"Commissioner King, we're welcoming you to Buffalo, we're anticipating your visit, and we've agreed Assemblywoman Peoples and myself, we're going to help you find a location," said Ryan Monday. "Threatening to close those schools in the next six weeks is preposterous. You don't take into account what effect is that going to have on the community. What effect is that going to have on the students?"
King has called on the Buffalo School District to send students at the failing schools to BOCES.
"There's a lot of chaos in these children's lives. So, it's the third week in July and the commissioner is saying to all these parents, your kids are going to go to school in the suburbs on the first week in September. Lafayette High School has 45 languages spoken. Is there any indication from BOCES that they are ready to take kids that speak 45 languages?" added Ryan.
"I know everybody's not necessarily going to college, but most of the students would surmise it, but particularly at Lafayette, they chose not to go to a school where vocational services are offered. Students at East High School, on the other hand, there are vocational services that are offered here and the students graduate from here in huge numbers," said Peoples-Stokes.
Peoples-Stokes cites preliminary 2013 graduation rates at East of 47-percent, up from 27-percent in 2012.
She would like Johns Hopkins to continue leading the charge at both high schools to fix the problems, saying Johns Hopkins has a record of increasing graduation rates so quickly that the high schools could be over 70-percent in just one year.
For now, the assembly members remain frustrated with the lack of information coming from the state's education leader.
"We all agree we have problems in our school district, but we want to come to solutions. We're not just going to throw it against the wall to see what sticks. We want good things for the students," says Ryan.
So far, King's office has told the assembly members he understands why there are so many questions, but he has not agreed to a trip to Buffalo.
Channel 2 reached out to King Monday night via twitter asking for his response to this call for action, and we did not get a reply.