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The student rep drills the distinguished educator

Erika Richardson, the new student rep on the School Board, seems likely to liven up the boardroom this year.

Boardrooms can be daunting places for newcomers. I've covered more than a dozen school districts for the News over the years, and very often, it takes new (adult) board members a year or so before they really get acclimated to their position and feel comfortable asking questions or sharing their thoughts.

Erika RichardsonThat certainly doesn't seem to be the case with Richardson, a student at Performing Arts (pictured at right).

She's already sat through a couple of board meetings, but she wasn't officially sworn in until Wednesday night.

Richardson wasted no time, though, in speaking up.

When it came to the part of the meeting where board members can talk about whatever's on their minds, Richardson said she did not have any comments, but she did have some questions.

And they were for Judy Elliott, the distinguished educator.

The student rep seemed to have no qualms asking Elliott the questions that countless adults in Buffalo seem to be wondering.

She cut to the chase.

Richardson: You are from out of town, correct? Florida?

Elliott at board meetingElliott: Yeah.

Richardson: And you are here to help the Buffalo Public Schools do what exactly?

Elliott: I grew up in Western New York and I've been asked to come back to work with the Buffalo Public Schools to problem-solve areas that need to be looked at to accelerate student achievement.

Richardson: How do you plan to do that?

Elliott: It's a good question. It's not my role to do that. But it's my role to facilitate that. I will work with the superintendent to do that.

Earlier in the meeting, Elliott said she had already visited 23 of Buffalo's 28 "priority" schools (that's the new term for schools among the lowest 5 percent in the state) and plans to visit the remaining five next week.

She is scheduled to submit a district plan to the state education commissioner by Sept. 24.

- 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 |