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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:

There were a number of interesting topics that came up at Wednesday's school board committee meetings. I only had space to write about training for the new code of conduct policy. Here are a few other items of note.

The Student Achievement Committee:

• Received a report showing that 5,755 elementary students have signed up so far for summer school, the highest number of students since 2009. The district has really been banging the drum on summer school in recent weeks, in stark contrast to last year when summer school was completely canceled. Administrators hope to ultimately have 8,000 students enrolled.

• Expressed support for a new series of elementary reading textbooks called "Journeys" by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The kindergarten-through-sixth grade reading series is directly aligned with the Common Core learning standards.

Both teachers and administrators met in separate committees and interviewed vendors in what was described as the most rigorous review of a textbook series to date. Both committees independently named the Journeys series as their top pick.

The series also includes numerous supplemental materials for students and teachers, a parallel bilingual reading series called "Senderos," and content availability online and on tablets and other mobile devices.

It's probably going to to cost the district big bucks for the series, but administrators said they're still "playing hardball" and negotiating a final price for the textbooks.

Finally, the board's Executive Committee held a special, closed session to further discuss the superintendent's evaluation. The committee met for 1 1/2 hours (delaying all other committee meetings) to discuss some low marks that the superintendent apparently received from individual board members. The evaluation should be finalized in the next week or so.


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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 |