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Telephone polls and turnaround plans: the full story on both

Grab a cup of coffee and settle in, because there's plenty to sink your teeth into today, for those of you who really want to delve into the nitty-gritty.

First, there's the issue of the telephone poll regarding Buffalo voter opinions about Superintendent James Williams.

The story about the poll presented the results in a fairly simple manner: approve/disapprove. But the poll results were more nuanced than that. There were degrees of approval, as well as degrees of disapproval.

And the differences between the opinions of whites and those of African-Americans were worth exploring, as were the differences among voters in various Common Council districts.

So for those of you who'd like to ponder all this in a little more depth, here goes. The exact wording of each question is followed by a breakdown of the responses:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job James Williams is doing as school superintendent in the City of Buffalo?

Strongly approve Somewhat approve Somewhat disapprove Strongly disapprove Not sure
All respondents 12% 17% 19% 44% 7%
By race:
Whites 7% 12% 20% 56% 6%
African-Americans 24% 25% 18% 25% 7%
By council district:
Delaware 5% 16% 25% 52% 1%
Ellicott 21% 13% 21% 33% 12%
Fillmore 29% 20% 14% 29% 9%
Lovejoy 10% 23% 15% 44% 8%
Masten 24% 27% 24% 20% 5%
Niagara 7% 20% 20% 50% 4%
North 6% 16% 18% 57% 4%
South 3% 9% 16% 59% 13%
University 16% 13% 18% 43% 10%

If you were a member of the Buffalo Board of Education, which of the following actions would you take regarding Superintendent Williams:

Fire him immediately Let him complete his term; do not renew contract Extend his contract/ reward him Not sure
All respondents 27% 46% 15% 12%
By race:
Whites 33% 52% 6% 10%
African-Americans 15% 38% 33% 14%
By council district:
Delaware 33% 52% 8% 8%
Ellicott 14% 45% 27% 14%
Fillmore 29% 29% 23% 20%
Lovejoy 19% 53% 13% 15%
Masten 14% 37% 36% 14%
Niagara 39% 43% 7% 11%
North 27% 59% 6% 8%
South 41% 41% 4% 13%
University 22% 45% 20% 13%


Williams, you might note, declined to comment on the poll results. District spokeswoman Elena Cala said the superintendent is focused on "academics, not popularity."

He must be focusing from afar. Williams is not in Buffalo, for the second weekend in a row. (Last weekend, you remember, his absence was duly noted when Deputy Education Commissioner John King flew into town and met with two dozen other people in the community who managed to clear their calendars to see him.)

And the clock is ticking. The district now has a week and one day to submit its turnaround plans to the state for nine low-performing schools.

And it's not looking particularly promising.

Anybody remember last year?

The state turned down $42 million in Buffalo's school turnaround plans last September. There were about half a dozen reasons the state cited in its denial of those plans. The one that got the most attention was Williams' refusal to move three principals.

But the state also cited as problematic the lack of support from the teachers union, which complained it had little to no input on the plans.

In the aftermath of Albany's denial of the plans, teachers union president Phil Rumore had more luck getting the district to listen to teacher input:

Rumore said he asked Williams to send administrators to each school to ask the teachers what they thought each school needed. Williams agreed to do that and implement as many suggestions as possible.

Rumore gathered suggestions from teachers in each of the schools and gave the district a wish list for each building. Some of the things teachers requested: "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."

In the scramble to put together revised turnaround plans, administrators did give some consideration to that input.

Apparently, though, the district didn't bother to include any teacher input this time around.

Not only that, but the district was in no rush to provide the teachers with copies of the turnaround plans, with or without their input. Rumore said the first time the schools saw copies of those plans was late last week, when he faxed them over to the schools.

In fact, the district doesn't seem to be too eager for much of anyone to see copies of those plans.

While the district did post a two-page summary of the plans on its website (after the Buffalo News posted the summary), officials did not post the full plans.

The greatest extent they went to to distribute the plans was to hand each board member on Wednesday a huge binder stuffed with paper copies of the plans.

Hello? Each board member has two district-provided laptops (one for home use; one for use strictly at board meetings), along with district-provided Internet service at home. It's not clear why the district would not instead provide pdf's of the turnaround plans. Of course, pdf's are easily disseminated online or via e-mail to anyone who might be interested.

That being said, The Buffalo News got paper copies of the plans, scanned them in and created pdf's for you to view, download and share as you wish.

Board of Education members are planning to meet with teachers and parents at each of the nine schools early this week in a last-minute effort to squeeze some of their input into the final version of the turnaround plans before they're sent to Albany.

Here are the plans for the low-performing high schools (click on the school name to download the pdf of the entire turnaround plan for that school):

- Burgard

- East

- Lafayette

- Riverside

And the turnaround plans for the low-performing elementary schools:

- Buffalo Elementary School of Technology

- Bilingual Center

- Drew Science Magnet

- Futures Academy

- Waterfront Elementary


- Mary Pasciak

E-mail me at or follow me on Follow  SchoolZoneBlog on Twitter Twitter. Check out the Buffalo News' education page at

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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 |