OSWEGO, NY – The Buc School, lower level, at the Education Center, 120 E. First St., will host an open house Wednesday from 6 to 7 p.m.
Over the past several weeks, Buc students and parents have spoken out against the district’s plan to close the site and re-introduce the students into the traditional school setting at the middle and high school this fall.
The district isn’t doing away with the Big Picture School program, just the site, Oswego Superintendent Ben Halsey said, adding that it is a budget decision.
If the proposed budget is voted down on May 20, none of the cuts, incluidng the Buc School, will be reinstated, he explained again Monday night. In fact, if the district is forced to go to a contingency budget, it would mean further cuts and reductions, he added.
“I am extremely proud of those students that made the brave decision to speak in front of the school board. However, in no way should they have had been put in that position. My heart ached for each and every child, as each of them bared their soul for the entire community to see. I haven’t reached the point where I can forget the tears shed,” one student’s mother, Teresa Lazarek, told Oswego County Today.
Many of the parents said they found out only days before the April 8 board meeting that Superintendent Halsey was proposing the elimination of the Buc for budgetary purposes.
Several said Halsey has yet to contact any of them in regards to the planned transition process or how it will be facilitated. They are irked that the superintendent spoke to the media about the plan before them, they added.
At the last school board meeting, the superintendent explained that they wanted to explain the situation to the Buc students first and are now in the process of reaching out to the parents.
“In my opinion, if Mr. Halsey cared about the emotional well-being of our children, he would have communicated this plan to the parents,” one parent said. “This would have allowed us to have proper conversations with our children. Possibly making this less traumatic.”
“In the Buc, there is a partnership between the principal, teachers and parents. We work together in educating our children. If we knew there was something that needed to be fixed, the parents would have been more than willing to help. I have never had the opportunity to work with a group of parents that are completely vested in their school. It has been an honor to work alongside them,” Lazarek added.
According to one of the parents, “It is public perception that special accommodations have been made for our children, when in fact we are a bare-bones operation. We have been without a guidance counselor since January and have never since my son has been in attendance had a school nurse on site.”
This environment at the Buc is working well for these students, the parents say.
There are many more within the district that would benefit from this (educational) model as well, they added.
“Our (Buc) school expanded from our first year (portables behind the middle school) to this year (the basement level of the Education Center). It was the plan that we would grow each year,” Lazarek said. “We were given five years by the BOE to do so.”
Superintendent Halsey said that in his five months on the job in Oswego, he hasn’t seen any paperwork indicating the Big Picture (Buc) School would be a five-year project.
“Until recently, not many people knew we existed. Therefore they didn’t apply to get accepted into the program,” Lazarek pointed out.
Now, there are many misconceptions within the community of what the Buc is and how it functions, she said.
She firmly believes that any student would benefit from this model, if it stayed pure.
You cannot just take bits and pieces of the model and dilute them within the traditional educational (OMS and OHS) setting and expect results, she added.
If the Buc students are integrated directly into the middle and high schools they will be walking targets, some of them said.
They feel that from the inception of the Buc School, the public has not been properly informed of what it is and “more importantly who the students are.”
Lazarek echoed those sentiments.
“The biggest misconception is that the students that attend the Buc are juvenile delinquents, who are only attending because they have behavioral issues, or are stupid. These children were selected for the Buc, because they were falling between the cracks within the regular schools, but also because they proved they had potential to succeed within this setting,” she said. “If our children return to the regular schools, I am confident some will academically do well. However, some will struggle socially as well as academically. Some students were bullied in the regular school. My biggest fear is that some of these students will experience even greater bullying if they return.”
One parent pointed out that the public believes that Buc students are “coddled” and have “easier course work” and, to some extent, that perception extends to the teachers within other schools as well.
“I think that as much as I do not want to see the Buc die, the other schools do not want our children as well. I feel our children will be unwanted and entering a volatile environment. This type of environment is not conducive to learning,” the parent said. “We are not making this difficult on the kids, it’s the way this has been handled that has been difficult.”