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Williams, Rumore and others talk school reform

Following the Western New York premiere of "Waiting for Superman" last week, a panel discussion at the Amherst Dipson Theatre provided a forum for exchanging ideas about school reform here in Buffalo.

Panelists brought to the table a variety of experiences and perspectives: Superintendent James A. Williams; Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore; Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (a vocal advocate of charter schools); Keith Frome, head of the middle school at King Center Charter School; and Joy McDuffie, a Buffalo parent and drop-out prevention activist.

The good news: No fights broke out (although things got heated between Hoyt and Rumore for a couple of minutes).

Even better news: This may be the start of something more. Hoyt offered to organize the next public conversation about school reform -- and Williams said he was on board with that, even suggesting it be held at Performing Arts.

The audio is available below, in two parts, so you can hear it all for yourself. The whole thing is just a bit over half an hour long. Our thanks to the organizers of the event, Buffalo ReformED, for letting us share their audio with you.

In case you can't crank up the volume to listen right now, here's a sampling of what you'll hear once you do have a chance to listen. I asked each of the panelists to share one success they've had in bringing positive change to local schools.

Williams talked about the former Seneca Vocational High School, which was closed and reopened as the Math Science Technology Preparatory School. He pointed to a longer school day and longer school year as essential to turning a school around.

Hoyt cited the state Legislature's adoption of the charter school law and subsequent lifting of the cap on the number of charters.

McDuffie said the city is sorely lacking success stories in preventing dropouts. She called for more programs to bring kids back to high school -- and the need for the community to adopt a "culture of learning."

Frome discussed King Center Charter School's use of data in better understanding and meeting the needs of each student.

And Rumore talked about the teachers union's role in establishing a scholarship fund for students.

Panelists also talked about how the educational landscape in Buffalo differs from what was depicted in "Waiting for Superman," and what they plan to do to continue working to improve local education.

Here's the first half of the discussion:

And the second half of the discussion:

 - 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 |