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What should the state do about Buffalo school district dysfunction?

    Things have gotten so bad in the Buffalo Public Schools that the chancellor of the State Board of Regents is exploring possible state intervention, including the dismissal of all nine members of the Board of Education.

   "There are a lot of issues here," said Chancellor Robert M. Bennett. "They're disturbing, to say the least."

   Bennett Monday asked State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills to spell out steps the state can take, including a top-to-bottom dismissal of the troubled board.

   The state - for both philosophical and practical reasons - is traditionally reluctant to get directly involved in governance issues in individual school districts. So while it remains unclear what will come of Bennett's request for a list of options, the request itself underlines a very deep concern in Albany.

   Bennett mentioned controversies at McKinley High School, Discovery School 67 and City Honors School, along with dismal test scores across much of the district and an ethics commission report concluding that at least one board member lied under oath about leaking information to The Buffalo News.

   But Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore said action should be taken against Superintendent James A. Williams, not the board.

   Is Bennett on target? Is the board so dysfunctional that it should be replaced? Or should the state take less dramatic action, or none at all? Where does Albany come into the picture as questions about city schools multiply?

   --- Peter Simon

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