BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Terrance Heard says he taught in the Buffalo Public School District for many years, but that's not what gives him a unique perspective on the challenges it faces today. It's the career path he followed after.

"I became a correctional officer. I wanted to see where the problem started at," said Heard, who moved to Georgia for the job. "I could talk to the prisoners there and see what went wrong in their lives."

Heard says his time as a CO, as well as a probation officer and court liaison, suggested a common thread.

"It's a problem that lies in our school system. It's a problem that's definitely here that we have to support," said Heard.

Heard shared his observations at an emergency town hall meeting hosted by the Northeast Charter Schools Network, or NECSN. It was called to address what organizers say are a number of problems. They include nine out of 10 kids not being able to read at grade level, fewer than six out of 10 graduating on time, and more than 90 percent of black and Hispanic students enrolled in a traditional Buffalo school not passing the math or ELA exams for third through 8th grade.

"There's a huge disconnect so, again, it's not to blame anyone or point fingers, but the system, the different parts have come together, and it is making this system not work for a lot of the children in this city," said NECSN WNY Advocacy Manager Duncan Kirkwood.

Part of the goal was to educate the public about the extent of the district's issues. The audience was also asked to suggest ideas for solutions that will be passed on to the school board.

"There's a lot of research that needs to be done, and there's a lot of statistics that were brought to the table, statistics that are already in place. Again - how do we come together on all levels to take those statistics and bump them up to where we should be?" said BPS West District Board member Jennifer Mecozzi.

Organizers say moving forward, they want to focus less on meetings like this one and more on putting these ideas into action.