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What did not happen this week

Back in April, Senior Deputy Education Commissioner John King offered to come back to Buffalo, gather the key stakeholders in a room, lock the door, and not let anyone out until all parties agreed on turnaround plans for Buffalo's nine persistently lowest-achieving schools.

He cleared June 2 -- Thursday -- on his calendar to come back to Buffalo to do that.

It seemed that just about everybody involved thought King's plan was a good idea. (You might recall that King has said the state will have a hard time approving plans -- and handing out the $54 million that rides on them -- unless those plans have buy-in from the stakeholders, which was what that meeting was designed to solidify.)

But, as you've probably figured out by now, Thursday came and went, and King did not set foot in Buffalo.

Why?

Well, Mayor Brown, after sitting on the idea for a few weeks, eventually took the lead in organizing such a meeting. Brown lined up a national facilitator, Noel Tichy, to run the meeting.

The problem? Tichy was available on June 10 and 16; King was available on June 2. The mayor had to choose between the deputy commissioner -- who will become commissioner in mid-June -- and the facilitator. Brown picked the facilitator.

King was already set to come to Buffalo on June 2, and for a day or so after the June 10 meeting was solidified, King was still planning to come to town. But then it didn't take long for those who were trying to set up the June 2 meeting to decide that they did not want to risk upstaging the mayor's June 10 meeting.

So I'm not sure how King spent his day on Thursday, but I can tell you it did not involve a trip down the Thruway.

In the meantime, the stakeholders have already met with Tichy, via videoconference, to get through initial introductions and such. The mayor apparently is asking stakeholders what they think the goals of the June 10 meeting should be, and what the possible obstacles are.

While everyone from Phil Rumore to Sam Radford has agreed to attend the meeting, the level of enthusiasm has certainly taken a hit since it became known that John King would not be in the room. King is the guy who will have the final word on whether Buffalo's turnaround plans will be approved, so several people have told me they thought it was essential that he be in the meeting.

Now that he won't be, and now that it seems the goal of the June 10 meeting might be recast, several participants are worried that the focus is going to shift from getting agreement on the turnaround plans to something more general, like trying to forge better relationships among the players.

The last I heard, everyone who was invited still planned to attend the June 10 meeting, but a few of the invited guests had taken to referring to it derisively as the "Kumbaya meeting" -- as in, as one stakeholder told me: "I certainly hope they don't expect us to walk out of that room holding hands and singing Kumbaya."

- 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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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