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Appointments to follow heated board meeting

Tensions were certainly running high last week in Room 801 of City Hall.

The Board of Education met in a special session to decide whether to appoint a review panel to evaluate proposals from outside groups interested in running seven low-performing schools. (Here's a link to the live blog of the entire meeting.)

By way of background: When the board voted to adopt this particular turnaround model for the schools, which requires hiring outside groups, the board effectively took those seven schools out of the control of the superintendent.

At one point during the meeting, board member John Licata made it clear he wanted to see copies of all the proposals, which had been received in the district two days earlier. Superintendent James Williams said the proposals were "under lock and key in Purchasing" until he got direction from the board on what to do with the proposals.

At that point, board President Ralph Hernandez weighed in, and things got a bit heated between him and the superintendent.

Here's how things went:

Hernandez: When the board made the determination it would be the EPO model it would use, that responsibility fell on the board. Not Dr. Williams. Not the administration. I think this is a golden opportunity for us to bring the stakeholders from the city to the table to figure out where to go with this process. The administration and Dr. Williams should not be 15 blocks ahead of this whole process.

Williams: Folks, you may have every application. I don't want to be a part of it. We are waiting to get directions from you all. You may have them tomorrow, the next day. You may respond to the [State Education Department's] questions -- if you know how.

But to get the full sense of the emotions in the room, listen to it yourself:

About half an hour later, Florence Johnson was looking for some clarification on certain aspects of what the board was voting on. It didn't take long things got tense between her and Hernandez.

Johnson: I can't vote on this until I have clarity.

Hernandez: That's fine. You can say no.

Johnson: Would you do me a favor? Just close your mouth.  

Hernandez: I don't disrespect you like that.

Johnson: Just close your mouth. Everything somebody says, you have a comment.

Hernandez: Do I? Do I?

Listen for yourself:

Well, at the end of the day, nobody threw any punches.

And the board voted, 5-2 (Johnson and Rosalyn Taylor voted no), to appoint a six-member review panel, and to hire a consultant to evaluate the proposals. (Looks like Learning Points Associates is going to get the contract. No word yet on how much it's going to cost.)

The board gets to appoint two members of the local review panel; the Common Council president appoints one; the teachers union appoints one; the administrators union appoints one; and the District Parent Coordinating Council appoints one.

At this point, I have heard who two of them will be. Teachers union president Phil Rumore has decided to sit on the review panel himself, and administrators union president Crystal Barton also plans to sit on the panel.

Tune in Wednesday evening for our live blog of the meeting, which starts at 4 p.m., to find out who the rest of the appointees are.

- 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 |