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Can't get the superintendent to respond to you? Here's how

Over the past couple of months, I've been hearing complaints about what people say is Superintendent Pamela Brown's inaccessibility.

District employees, community group leaders and individuals who care about the schools have told me that they have emailed, called and even sent snail mail to Brown in the hopes of expressing a concern or requesting a meeting -- and received no response at all.

These are people who sought me out with their concerns, I would point out -- not people I sought out to ask about the superintendent. In other words, these people were frustrated enough to make a point of contacting me.

This week, I received a letter from an officer of a well-respected community group that is planning an event and would like to ask the superintendent to participate. The letter read, in part:

Brown at MST"In July, I sent an old-fashioned letter to Dr. Pamela Brown welcoming her to Buffalo and inviting her to come to our program and let us meet her. No answer.

"I have been trying to reach her by phone to no avail so far. Do you have an email for her, which I could use? I have not been able to find any."

When someone actually sends me a letter through the post office, that really gets my attention. The tipping point had been reached.

I emailed the superintendent (and cc'd Elena Cala, the district spokeswoman) about the frustrations that so many people have shared with me.

Here is what I wrote:

Dr. Brown,

There seems to be a growing concern in the community that you have been ignoring emails, phone calls and letters from various people and groups in the community.

Over the past several weeks, I have heard from a number of different stakeholders who reached out to me in frustration because they have contacted you, but you have not even acknowledged receipt of their correspondence, much less addressed the substance of their concerns.

Today, I received a written letter from a representative of a highly respected community group that is trying to organize a forum and wants you to participate. "In July, I sent an old-fashioned letter to Dr. Pamela Brown and inviting her to come to our program and let us meet her. No answer. I have been trying to reach her by phone to no avail so far."

This group reached out to me seeking advice on how best to contact you so as to get an actual response.

Could you please let me know -- so that I can let the community know -- why you have not been responding to countless constituents? And, for those who are still persevering in their efforts to communicate with you, what is the best way for them to do so?

- Mary Pasciak

By the end of the day, Cala emailed me back.

Here is what she wrote:

Dear Mary,

Calls made to the office for Dr. Brown are cleared daily by her secretary. Since her swearing-in as superintendent, Dr. Brown has typically attended many public events at the invitation of several community groups on weekends and evenings throughout the week. In fact, the only complaint I know of came from a local group that is holding a conference on October 20th, a conflict on the superintendent's schedule. A gentleman from the grou sent an email this week saying that he had not received a response, but when I forwarded him the response we had sent back in July, he apologized, saying he had missed it. I wrote to him just now to make sure he has the correct phone number.

I would very much appreciate the ability to reach out to those many different stakeholders you refer to, who have contacted you saying they are frustrated or ignored. One look at Dr. Brown's calendar will tell you that she is aware of, and sensitive to, stakeholders' desire for her presence. It is disconcerting to hear otherwise, especially when community events take up a good portion of her schedule.

During Dr. Brown's first weeks in the district, she spent a great deal of time planning for the September 5th opening of schools. Beyond that date, her calendar appointments populated quickly with community individuals, groups and media. In short, Dr. Brown is, and has been, taking appointments. In answer to the best way to communicate with Dr. Brown, please direct anyone who asks you to call 816-3500 or 816-3575, or email and/or


- 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 |