Buffalo Teachers Release Scathing McKinley High Survey

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Photo credit McKinley High School. January 14, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

BUFFALO, NY (WBEN) - Teachers at McKinley High School are again looking to shine a light on what they say are serious issues with the administration there.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation has released the results of a secret ballot survey sent to every Teacher at McKinley High School. Buffalo Teacher's Federation President Phil Rumore said about one-third of the school's 110 teachers responded to the poll. The survey found that 92% of teachers find the leadership of the current administration in that school to be poor or non-existent, and 89% of teachers are worried about the safety of the students in that school.

"One of the questions on the questionnaire was 'Teachers are in Constant Fear of Retributions from the Principal'," Rumore said. "Eighty percent agreed with that. Of the teachers that responded, they understand. People were afraid to fill out the questionnaire."

McKinley High School is one of the better performing schools within Buffalo Public Schools. It has a graduation rate of 77 percent. However, Rumore said it saw a drop in rate last June and pinned the blame on its leadership causing a poor learning environment.

"The graduation rate at McKinley in June went down one percent, whereas it had been going up before this principal was there," he said. "The graduation rate of African American and black students went down seven percent. The school had been doing well."

The survey sent to teachers follows concerns about McKinley High that were made public after a teacher was body slammed by a 14-year-old student earlier this year.

Buffalo Public Schools responded to the survey and Rumore's claims about graduation rate as follows:

"The Buffalo Public Schools are in full turnaround mode.  Due to strategic innovation within the Education Bargain, graduation rates are rising, student growth and achievement scores are rising, innovation is a hallmark attribute, and the district is providing greater programmatic access, quality, and opportunity for all students than ever before.
McKinley High School under the leadership of Principal Marck Abraham, engenders this spirit of transformation as well as any high school in the city.   For example, during Mr. Abraham’s principalship, the graduation rate at McKinley has increased to 84%, higher than the state average.  Within this impressive statistic, the graduation rate of McKinley’s black male students, one of the largest concentrations of this population in New York state, reached 87%, more than 20 percentage points higher than the state average of 63%.  Moreover, student attendance is up, teacher attendance is up, year-to-date suspensions are down, and the school’s accountability designation is poised to improve to the highest level.  McKinley has also expanded its CTE programs, partnerships, and student participation rates.
The district embraces the philosophy and training for restorative practices, culturally and linguistically responsive teaching, and trauma-informed care. Mr. Abraham has been examining and tracking data regarding student tardiness to school throughout the current year.  In order to address an important disproportionality concern, he and his team realized that a more restorative approach needed to be taken.
Mr. Abraham’s leadership style is open, collaborative, results-oriented, data-driven, and focused on solving rather than producing problems.  High expectations for student achievement is at the center of his vision for the school.  Regents exam performance is improving and the number and percentage of students scoring at advanced levels have increased.   Stretch goals have been established for this year for Regents exams, AP exams, and day-to-day coursework. 
Principal Abraham communicates frequently with staff.  In multiple and regular building committee meetings, no issues have come up that haven’t been resolved.  The overall tenor of his communication is positive, motivating, respectful, honest, forthright, and reflective.  He is a strong, calm presence in the school everyday and is hardworking and ethical; he is respectful and is respected.  He is a continuous learner, self-evaluative, a change agent, driven above all by the desire to develop young people to their highest potential.
Recent school climate surveys indicate that teachers and students overwhelmingly feel safe in school.  In addition to feeling safe, school climate surveys indicate that high percentages of staff and students feel that there are supports in place for students that struggle, that there is good home-school communication, and that there are clear structures in place for any type of emergency.  The surveys further indicate that in the main, discipline is fair, teachers feel supported, and that there is fair treatment for all students when it comes to discipline.
As a result of these observable characteristics and confirmed data points, my executive cabinet and I, as Superintendent of Schools, are united in our expressed statement that we have “100% confidence in the current principal, and we commend the progress being made in all areas under his leadership.”
The BTF data refers to the 2014 Total Cohort rate (at 77%), which was released last week. 

  • It is not the school’s accountability graduation rate, which is actually higher (at 81%). 

 

  • If you examine the data further, you see that there are 31 students still enrolled, which under ESSA, this is recognized and allowable.

 

  • Looking at 4th, 5th, and 6th year graduation rates, as allowed by ESSA, gives a better overall picture of student performance and success.

 

For a complete an accurate picture of McKinley’s accountability go to: https://data.nysed.gov/reportcard