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Health, music and beer ads become hot board topics

Protests to the Buffalo district's loss of school band programs carried the day Wednesday, but the Buffalo Board of Education dealt with a number of matters that deserve attention.

Among them:

- Health advocates and members of the District Parent Coordinating Council carved out a little time during the "forGOT MUSIC?" instrumental music rally on the steps of City Hall to announce that they had officially filed a letter with the state asking for oversight regarding the district's compliance with the state regulations for physical and health education. The News first had a story about this on Wednesday.

Superintendent Pamela Brown said the district is going to train classroom teachers to provide some of the physical education required by elementary students next school year and that the district is working on upgrading the health curriculum for next school year, as well.

Both she and a several board members said they were "surprised" and "taken aback" at the request for state oversight, given the progress the district was making through its physical activity and wellness committees, even though the district's wellness policy was approved more than a year ago.

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Facing the music

As noted in Tuesday's story about cuts to the Buffalo school district's instrumental music programs, music teachers are making noise about major cutbacks to the district's band and instrumental music lesson offerings. They contend - based on direct coversations with building principals - that 14 of the district's remaining 28 instrumental music programs are going to be eliminated next school year.

Instrumental music teachers said that in many cases, music lessons offer Buffalo school students one of the few remaining opportunities they have to form close relationships with their teachers in small-group settings.

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The blog returns!

Hi folks. I'm Sandra Tan, the Buffalo schools education reporter who has assumed the beat from my predecessor, Mary Pasciak. (Some of you may also recall seeing Mark Sommer's byline. He covered the beat temporarily for a few months after Mary stepped back in December.) Mary is continuing to work on some in-depth school-related stories, but since mid-May, I've assumed most day-to-day coverage.

As part of that coverage, I'm resurrecting the School Zone blog. Eventually, I hope to also live blog the regular school board meetings, but one step at a time! I probably won't be posting to the School Zone blog every day, but I do hope to post on a regular basis as blog-worthy topics come up.

I invite blog followers to chime in with suggestions, ideas and story tips as I get up to speed on school coverage. Hopefully, you'll be hearing from other reporters in this space as well, but at the very least you'll hear from me.

So let's start with this:

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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 |