Westminster, Enterprise charters earn their renewals

Give Westminster and Enterprise charter schools credit for hard work and determination, turning Buffalo Board of Education skeptics into believers. The board unanimously passed resolutions to recommend five-year renewals after each charter met academic and administrative goals.

Such overwhelming support may have been hard to imagine three years ago when the School Board voted to close both schools. Buffalo Public Schools sponsored both charter schools two decades ago. Shutting the schools down would have signified the state’s only charter schools to have been closed by their authorizer during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both charters were once beacons of educational promise. M&T Bank began a partnership with Westminster in 1993, and has invested over $17.8 million, consisting of teacher training, summer programming for children, nutrition and health and technology. The schools enroll students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

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Underperforming charter schools get shut down – as they should be – and these two charter schools were on the brink.

Fortunately, that was then. The situation has changed for the better, but not without some effort. Constance Moss, the charter school adviser appointed by the School Board to oversee Westminster and Enterprise, aptly described the serious situation as “survival.”

Both charter schools acted boldly in taking legal action against the School Board for not following proper procedure in determining their closure. The action brought a welcome and useful reprieve.

Those proceedings resulted in a preliminary injunction, two-year renewal in 2022 and settlement that determined 12 academic and administrative goals. Each school needed to meet at least eight goals.

Terms of the 2022 agreement dictated an automatic five-year renewal recommendation if the schools met these goals. Each did just that, and evidence of such was presented with earned pride by leaders of both charter schools – Denise Terrell at Enterprise and Teresa Gerchman at Westminster. Both schools easily exceeded the eight-goal threshold with 10 each.

The two charter schools have worked hard to get to this point. The road does not end with the local School Board but continues with the state Board of Regents, which has been, as reported, “less kind to the pair in the past.”

The Regents should consider the degree to which the schools have worked in turning around a once-drifting academic ship. Indeed, they have performed at least as well if not better in some areas than traditional public schools. Both charter schools have earned another chance.

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