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Who needs FedEx, anyway?

After the Buffalo Public Schools lost out on $42 million in school turnaround grant funds in September, the State Education Department granted the district a do-over. Deadline: Oct. 4 -- which is today.

Two weeks ago, Buffalo Superintendent James A. Williams told me it would be no problem to make the revisions the state required. In fact, he said the district would have its revised application completed by Sept. 30. That was last Thursday.

It didn't happen.

Those familiar with the inner workings of City Hall say this is typical of the district in recent years: Williams comes out with grand promises, then leaves it to those below him to scramble to try to make it happen.

While City Hall administrators including Amber Dixon, Debra Sykes and Debra Buckley were putting in marathon hours the past few days to complete the application, Williams was a few hundred miles away, attending a conference in Baltimore.

As I write this, Williams is back in town. And his grant application team, apparently, is still putting the finishing touches on the application.

FedEx Williams himself had not even seen the final document, as of shortly before noon.

At this point, one thing is clear: Even FedEx wouldn't be able to get the application delivered to State Ed by the time it's signed and sealed.  Instead, someone will have to drive the application today from Buffalo to Albany.

Let's hope they don't get stuck in traffic.

In the meantime, we'll be doing our homework back here in Buffalo to find out exactly what the final grant application contains. Earlier drafts suggest the district seems to have revised the application to meet the requirements that State Education Commissioner David M. Steiner and Senior Deputy Commissioner John B. King Jr. laid out for the Buffalo Public Schools.

Stay tuned for more details.


The application has reportedly made its way to Albany, as of 4 p.m. today -- via e-mail, of all things. How very 2010.

Meanwhile, district officials have said they will not comment on the application until the state reviews it. Apparently, their secrecy extends even to the people who hire and fire the superintendent. Board President Ralph Hernandez says Williams still has not provided him with a copy of the application.

-- 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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |