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Addition by subtraction

It's been three months since the Buffalo Board of Ed decided to adopt a turnaround model for seven failing schools that involves hiring outside groups to run those schools. (The board ended up in July deciding not to hire outside groups this year for four of those schools.)

Ever since the board's initial decision in May, there's been much discussion regarding what these educational partnership organizations actually are supposed to do, and how they are supposed to function. Since this is all new in New York State, there's quite a bit of deciphering to do.

Countless times in the past three months, I've heard everyone from state officials to the superintendent to board members say that the EPO is supposed to take the place of the superintendent, as it relates to the particular school that the EPO is in charge of. In other words, the EPO is supposed to report directly to the board, so the superintendent will be responsible for fewer schools.

Plenty of people were surprised when word spread that Superintendent James Williams wanted to add an administrator to central office to oversee the EPOs, seeing as the EPOs are supposed to be directly reporting to the board, not the district's administration.

Board President Lou Petrucci said the new administrator would eventually take on more responsibilities, as more low-performing schools are identified and potentially taken out from under the superintendent's responsibilities.

"This person is going to act as the liaison between the board and the EPOs," Petrucci said. "It will also be the person who coordinates any support the EPOs need in City Hall."

The new administrative position has not yet been posted.

In the meantime, other changes pertaining to the EPOs have already been made.

For the past few months, Amber Dixon, executive director of accountability, and Debbie Buckley, who runs the district's grants department, have been the point people for all things EPO-related. They have been charged with getting up to speed on the rules governing EPOs, which seem to be constantly evolving, as this is an entirely new model in education in New York State.

In recent days, the superintendent pulled Dixon and Buckley off those EPO duties and instead put Debra Sykes and Anne Botticelli, both associate superintendents, in charge of the EPOs.

That is not sitting well with some board members.

"It's clear the EPOs and the board want Debbie Buckley and Amber Dixon," said Mary Ruth Kapsiak, vice president for student achievement. "So how does [Williams] get to make that call? How can you take somebody who's been to all the meetings and knows all the integral parts off a piece that's so integral to the district?"

- 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 |