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What did Buffalo have to say about the schools -- and the next superintendent?

This week, the School Board got a 38-page report from Cascade Consulting and Say Yes to Education, summarizing the results of 51 focus groups and interviews and more than 100 survey responses.

Today's story provides some of the key findings.

Here's a little bit more -- common answers to three key questions, from the focus groups and interviews. Each of the comments I included below was made by at least five people, according to the consultants' report. Following each comment is the name of the group it came from.

How is the district currently performing?

- Education is under siege: shift the conversation; needs infusion of hopefulness. Agree on fundamentals of transparent, accessible, accountable (higher education)

- We need neighborhood schools and community-based education; stop busing (parents)

- Transparency is critical because it does not exist in this community right now (local community organizations)

- Work is not relevant or rigorous (students)

- Go back to vocational education -- need career readiness (staff)

- Teachers/schools put on a show when board members or authorities come to the school -- the normal situation is not presented (students)

- A big problem has been honesty and transparency (union leadership)

- People have given up; have seen nominal reform initiatives without real results (from business and elected leaders)

- Need to focus on kids' needs (staff)

- Most of the teachers believe in students, go above and beyond for students (students)

What are the immediate challenges facing the district?

- Negotiate new contract (union leadership)

- Need to stop blaming anyone else and start assuming leadership and accountability internally (business and elected leaders)

- Kids are dropping out because they don't see the value in education (parents)

- The silence of the teachers needs to be addressed (local community organizations)

- Supply shortages in schools (students)

- Attendance: create an environment students are comfortable in and adults are comfortable with (staff)

- The labor agreement needs to be equally ratified among all parties consistent with educational standards of today (local community organizations)

- Needs to be more challenging (students)

- Parents don't want to get involved and school is not very welcoming with parents either (students)

What qualities should the next superintendent possess?

- Be careful of ego. We need someone that is humble and trustworthy (local community organizations)

- An understanding of how to engage the parent groups (business and elected leaders)

- Someone who cares about the students' future (students)

- Need someone who is part of the community, be proud to live in Buffalo (parents)

- Cares about the kids and truly wants them to succeed (staff)

- Ability to bring school board, teachers, union together -- that makes people nervous if new superintendent coming from the outside (union leadership)

- Think outside the box, different ideas with same issues, dynamic ways to deal with them (higher education)

- Someone who has fought these same fights in the past and succeeded (local community organizations)

- In Buffalo, need humility, need a "regular person, not elite (higher education)

- Someone from Buffalo who understands Buffalo -- key to reviving the city (staff)

The report also noted that "there was significant expression about keeping Amber Dixon in the superintendent role among teachers and parents. There was also significant expression about looking outside the district among elected leaders, business leaders and parents."

The report is chock full of interesting tidbits and thoughts from various people. It's worth a few minutes to look through it. Here is the entire report.

- 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 |