A closer look at My Brother’s Keeper | Local News


The My Brother’s Keeper Family and Community Engagement Program (MBK FCEP) grant was applied for by the Lockport City School District on January 28, just four days before the February 1 deadline from the Department of Education of the New York State. Currently the grant has been approved by NYSED and the district is waiting for the budget and documents related to minority / women owned businesses to be approved as well.

“We should receive the official award letter by the end of August,” wrote Holly Dickinson, grants director for the Lockport City School District, in an email to the US&J.

Board members and school officials were criticized by the community at Wednesday night’s education board meeting in the Lockport High School auditorium for failing to contact the local groups already serving young men of color with mentoring programs, mostly on a voluntary basis.

Lockport black community member Steve Huston said he felt the school district administration hid the grant from the community and used their sons to bring money to the district, allegedly to help them, but without any communication with blacks. neighborhood families.

The MBK FCEP application guide stated that “the purpose of the Family and Community Engagement program is to increase academic success and college and career readiness for boys and young men of color. … In narrowing the scope of this continuing concern to the issues of boys and young men of color, it is not just about engaging and connecting with immediate family, but extended family and community.

Former administrator Kyle Lambalzer, who decided to forgo running for his 2021-22 school board seat, was not present at the meeting but said he did not want to fully blame the board for the management shortcomings of the grant, because the board is often not informed of grants until the end of the game.

“The board does not vote to authorize grant applications,” Lambalzer said. “Holly (Dickinson) is encouraged to apply for any grant, hundreds of grants because a lot of them are competitive.”

Lambalzer said the board was only informed after the grant was “provisionally awarded” in early spring. Any other mention of the grant before that date may also have been mistaken for the diversity, equity and inclusion position the board was trying to fill, he said.

“I wish I could have asked, ‘Did you talk to community stakeholders about the grant before you asked for it? ”Said Lambalzer. He also noted that when news of the grant was received, the money was immediately pocketed in different places where the district could use the funds, essentially “diluting” the spirit of the MBK grant.

Administrator Renee Cheatham said she only heard about the grant in May, when the information was put on her school board’s file. She said she was surprised not to have been approached to indicate where funding has been allocated and partnerships made. She noted that her husband, Ronnie Cheatham, volunteered to mentor young men of color with a group called New Beginnings, founded by her mother in the 1990s.

Cheatham said she supports community members in the district who are angry with the way the administration has treated them and their children. The needs of brown and black students will no longer be suppressed, she said.

“They won’t go,” Cheatham added.

One of two partners the district contacted, according to the My Brother’s Keeper grant application, were Growing Rewarding Outcomes in the Workplace: Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity / Equity / & Inclusion Consultation Services (GROW) founded by Joyelle Hackett.

The partnership between the Hackett organization and the Lockport City School District includes coordinating with GROW to plan and schedule workshops, trainings and meetings, as well as providing “general data relating to the race of staff and staff. students, ethnicity, gender, attendance, discipline and academic performance. In return, GROW, among other tasks, will “address the barriers and weaknesses that hinder educational and community engagement, student success and make recommendations for change,” as well as work 3-5 hours per month to “work with specific working groups to deal with IED problems.

According to the MBK FCEP grant application, obtained by the US&J, GROW’s services cost $ 15,000 this year.

The second partner is the Western New York Center for Children and Families Psychological and Educational Services, headed by Dr. Justin Naylor. What the group will do include holding three 60-90 minute seminars for staff and parents, such as “Parent Advocacy” and “Raising Confident and Competent Children”. Naylor will also conduct one-on-one parenting consultations, but limiting them to 40 consultations and will receive $ 13,000 this year.

Another group, Buffalo Pre-Natal (BPPN) will receive $ 5,000 for its Nururing Fathers program.

A total of $ 33,325 will be spent on professional salaries, $ 3,000 on support staff salaries, $ 58,000 on purchased services, which include GROW and the Naylor partnership, and $ 14,800 on supplies and equipment. Benefits will round up the costs by an additional $ 15,875, supplementing the expense of $ 125,000 granted for the 2021-2022 school year.

Dickinson presented those who attended the meeting on Wednesday with a quote on the New York State Board of Education webpage (nysed.gov/mbk) that showed how the state had adopted the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

“New York State’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative aims to ‘Change the narrative’ of boys and young men of color, and all college students, by filling and eliminating the opportunities they face and helping them reach their full potential, ”read the page.

Currently, Dickinson has stated that the grant application is available through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

“It’s the Freedom of Information Act. It’s available, it’s just the way we make it available. We can make it available in hard copy, I think that’s unlikely. We can make it available when you make an appointment and read it in my presence, I don’t know at the moment, ”Dickinson said. “I’m glad you read it, I just don’t know how. I’m going to have to talk to the superintendent or President Young, or our legal department. It’s not that it can’t be (read), I just don’t know how it will be made available. “

Dickinson can be contacted at [email protected]

A public forum will be scheduled for MBK FCEP, said Karen Young, chair of the Lockport Board of Education. No date has been given.


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