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What the board won't tell us -- and the gift to Williams that will keep on giving

Wednesday evening, moments after Superintendent James Williams announced he will retire in a year, board member Chris Jacobs handed me a copy of the board's evaluation of Williams.

What he handed me was a one-page summary. You can check it out yourself: here's the link to it.

Strangely, this was the very thing Jacobs had promised me -- twice in the past week or two -- that he would not hand out.


Because I had called Bob Freeman, who's in charge of the state's Committee on Open Government, to ask exactly which parts of the evaluation the public is entitled to get. And he told me that the public is entitled to something far more detailed than anything the district has ever released before.

Here's how the superintendent's evaluation works: Each board member gets to rate the superintendent on 55 separate items, each on a scale of 1 to 5. You can check it out yourself. Download a copy of the full list of items the superintendent is evaluated on.

Freeman says the public should be able to get copies of the averaged score for each of those 55 items.

"Opinions expressed in numeric data are public," Freeman said.

That's what I told to Jacobs -- twice. And both times, Jacobs assured me that, as the board member who oversaw the evaluation process, he would make sure the district released the full extent of what the public is entitled to.

You see, in past years, all the district released was a one-page summary, listing six categories and the superintendent's score for each category.

But Jacobs assured me that this year, the public would get the full evaluation.

So imagine my surprise when, on Wednesday evening, Jacobs handed me a one-page summary.

When I pointed out that he had promised the full, itemized evalution results, he told me: "I misunderstood what you were asking for."


It seems that maybe the public would want to know the superintendent's average score on, say, "Provides leadership, inspiring others to attain the highest of professional standards" versus "Is customarily suitably well groomed" (which are both actual items on the evaluation).

I've already filed a Freedom of Information Law request for a copy of the superintendent's evaluation. We'll see whether the district's legal team is able to comply with state law any better than Jacobs did.

(For the record: I have FOILed for that in other local districts before, and have been provided with a full breakdown of the superintendent's evaluation. Off the top of my head, one district that has provided me with such a detailed document is Ken-Ton, back when Steve Achramovitch was about to move along to Greece.)

So you know what wasn't given out Wednesday night.

Now it's time to find out what was given out.

Because Williams will stay in Buffalo through June 2012, taxpayers will underwrite 70 percent of the cost of his health insurance premiums -- for the rest of his life.

Per his contract, once he stayed in Buffalo for five years, he was entitled to having taxpayers underwrite 50 percent of the cost of his post-retirement health insurance.

For every year he stayed in Buffalo past the initial five, the district covers an additional 10 percent of his post-retirement health premiums.

So now that he's staying through June 2012, that means he will spend seven years in Buffalo, which equals 70 percent of his health premiums, for life.

Not a bad deal for the guy who frequently complains about how retiree health costs are strangling the district.

- 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.

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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 |