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What do the Buffalo schools really need? Teachers call it like they see it

When the state rejected Buffalo's application for $42 million to help turn around its seven lowest-performing schools, one of the reasons officials cited was Phil Rumore's refusal to support the application. The teachers union president said the district failed to involve the union in developing the grant application in any meaningful way. Rumore2

So when Albany gave the district a chance to revise its application, Superintendent James A. Williams came looking for the support of the union. Rumore insisted that the district ask the teachers at those seven schools what they think their schools need. Williams said he would incorporate as many of the teachers' ideas as possible into the revised grant application.

So what do the teachers want?

A whole bunch of stuff for their students that has long been part of the suburban education landscape: enough textbooks so kids can take them home; electives that students actually find interesting; classroom equipment like microscopes, scales and graphing calculators; guest speakers; and field trips.

Oh, and Buffalo teachers say it would make sense to reinstate all those attendance teachers who were let go so early in Williams' tenure. Along with that, teachers say it would help to add guidance counselors, social workers and school psychologists to help students work through the plethora of problems that follow them to school.

Some of the other sensible ideas to help schools better serve a largely impoverished student body: keep the gym and pool open late, as a reward for kids who stay after school for academic help; let students' parents use the school library; and offer child care services at school for teen parents at risk of dropping out.

For those who want to see the unedited lists from the teachers at the seven schools, here they are.

Buffalo's revised $42 million school improvement grant application is due in Albany on Monday. Williams said last week he would have it finished by the end of September -- which means today. He said he would present the revised application to the Board of Education at a special meeting, possibly on Friday.

Ralph Hernandez But Board President Ralph R. Hernandez says that's not going to happen. A number of Buffalo board members already are on their way to Baltimore for the annual conference of the Council of Urban Boards of Education, and even more of them (along with Williams) will head there in the next couple of days -- meaning there likely would not be enough board members left in town to hold a meeting.

Hernandez says he's hopeful that, in the absence of a meeting, Williams will forward a copy of the revised application to each board member, and that it will be every bit as good as Buffalo's kids need it to be.

-- Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee | djgee@buffnews.com


Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes | tlankes@buffnews.com


Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone | stan@buffnews.com


Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB | dswilliams@buffnews.com

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