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The phantom contract

Last night, the School Board was scheduled to vote on a contract with Johns Hopkins University to start partnering with East and Lafayette high schools on at least a limited basis this fall.

Board members did not get a copy of the contract in advance of Wednesday night's meeting. A note in the packet indicated the contract would be available in the board office on Wednesday. Around 4 p.m., I checked in the office, and there was still no sign of the contract.

As it turned out, administrators pulled the item off the agenda at the last minute. The contract still wasn't ready, I was told Wednesday night, as I was about to walk out of City Hall.

In other words, there is no contract with Johns Hopkins at this point.

But curiously, some board members didn't seem to know that. Some of them, in fact, believed they had already received copies of it -- copies of a contract that does not exist.

Before I knew that the contract had been pulled from the agenda -- and that there was, in fact, no such contract yet -- I tried to get a copy of it.

During the meeting Wednesday evening, I asked one of the board members for a copy of the Johns Hopkins contract. I was told board members had gotten copies of it last week during committee meetings.

(That, obviously, was not the case. The board did receive copies of a contract last week -- but it was not a contract with Johns Hopkins to run East and Lafayette. It was a contract with Research to Practice, the group that is running Buffalo Elementary School of Technology this year.)

After the board meeting, I asked another board member for a copy of the contract. That board member said they didn't have a copy, but went looking for a copy in the board office -- without success, of course, seeing as there was no such contract.

Next, I spoke with Board President Mary Ruth Kapsiak and asked her for a copy of the Johns Hopkins contract. She didn't have a copy on her, she said, because the board had gotten copies of it last week in committee meetings.

Well, that would be impossible, seeing as there is no contract yet with Johns Hopkins.

Granted, I only talked to one-third of the board members.

But all three (including the board president) either believed they had actually received a copy of a contract that did not exist, or weren't sure whether a copy existed.


- 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 |