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Which principal is moving to City Hall?

Now that Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon has named a chief academic officer, she's about ready to announce her next appointment to fill a vacancy in central office: executive director for human resources.

That department, by pretty much every account I've ever heard -- from BPS job applicants, employees, retirees from that department, people outside the district -- has been in need of some serious help for years.

Valerie DeBerry stepped down as executive director of h.r. in the spring. For the past several months, Eileen Fleming, the deputy director of that department, has been acting in the No. 1 role there.

While James Williams was still superintendent, the vacancy was advertised as associate superintendent for human resources, with the requirements indicating the right candidate needed to have a background in curriculum. The word on the street was that the posting had been tailor-made with a specific person in mind.

But Williams never ended up filling the job before he left.

Once Dixon took over the district, she posted the position as an executive director opening, which is what it has traditionally been.

Darren BrownShe has decided to appoint Darren Brown, the principal of Performing Arts.

The official announcement has not yet been made, but in response to my inquiries -- after I heard scuttlebutt that the job would be going to Brown -- Dixon confirmed that he would be moving to central office.

Brown has a master's in business administration and certification in human resources, she said. He also has experience as a principal at the elementary (School 53) and secondary (Performing Arts since 2008) level, assistant principal (South Park High School), and math teacher.

"Darren Brown brings both the leadership and organizational skills I was looking for to the position," Dixon said. "His school experience is critical to creating a human resource department that is responsive to the needs of our schools."

Discussions regarding Brown's replacement, she said, are underway.

Seeing as Dixon's every move is under scrutiny -- as plenty of people are wondering whether she has what it takes to be superintendent for the long haul -- I think it's safe to say that her decision on who to appoint as principal at Performing Arts will be viewed as every bit as telling as her decisions on appointments at City Hall.

If you want to know just how important the principal is at a school, ask the parents at any school with a principal change this year how they feel about it. I guarantee you'll get some strong opinions. A good principal can make all the difference in the world; a bad one can crush even the strongest program.

Let's see what Dixon's idea of a good principal is.

- 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 |