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I really need a vacation

So I'm taking one this week. However, if there's any interesting, breaking news, my colleague Deidre Williams may be posting items to the blog this week so do check back.

Plans to turnaround Buffalo Public Schools that the public hasn't seen - Part 2


Following up on my last blog post, here's a copy of the Buffalo school district's Comprehensive Improvement Plan, which was approved by the board in a 6-2 vote Wednesday. As with the district's Strategic Plan, the public didn't get to see this Wednesday.

Continue reading "Plans to turnaround Buffalo Public Schools that the public hasn't seen - Part 2" »

Plans to turnaround Buffalo Public Schools that the public hasn't seen - Part 1

Apparently, a front-page story about the lack of Buffalo school district transparency isn't enough to convince school administrators and publicly elected school board members that openness and public consideration is a GOOD THING.

Wednesday night was the perfect example. Aside from members of the board, apparently no one was entitled to see the district's three new key plans to turn around the struggling school district:

  • The district five-year Strategic Plan
  • District Comprehensive Improvement Plan
  • School Comprehensive Education Plan

Continue reading "Plans to turnaround Buffalo Public Schools that the public hasn't seen - Part 1" »

Live blog of marathon Buffalo school board meeting Aug. 21

Please join us for tonight's live blog. The Buffalo school board will discuss a long list of weighty topics at tonight's 5:30 p.m. meeting, including the superintendent's reorganization, the district's new strategic plan, and an update on teachers union contract negotiations, among other topics.

For the board agenda, click here.

How to address the Buffalo school board

This is my second blog post related to school board openness and transparency.

The Buffalo school board's nine board members regularly speak with constituents and hear their concerns. But sometimes parents, organizations and community members find it more productive and effective to present before the entire board during a regular meeting.

Speaking before the Buffalo Board of Education can be very daunting, however, especially if you don't know the rules - like the requirement that you sign up to speak by noon the day before. (If you were hoping to address the school board this week and haven't yet signed up, you're too late.)

Continue reading "How to address the Buffalo school board" »

Another News staffer joining the Buffalo schools beat

It's a crazy time to be covering Buffalo City Schools. Big stories are breaking on an almost daily basis. We can barely keep up, let alone find time to do the kinds of big-picture, enterprise reporting that readers deserve.

So I'm happy to inform everyone that The Buffalo News is continuing its commitment to comprehensive education coverage by assigning a second full-time beat reporter, Deidre Williams, to the Buffalo school district. (You may have read her byline on education stories over this past week.)

Continue reading "Another News staffer joining the Buffalo schools beat" »

Commissioner finds Lafayette/East plans lacking

The state education commissioner is again asking the Buffalo school district to revise its school turnaround plans for East and Lafayette high schools. He's also asking for further revisions to the grant applications for the turnaround of BEST and School 80 (which was mentioned in a previous blog post).

Here's Commissioner John King's 10-page letter outlining the plan deficiencies for all four schools:

Continue reading "Commissioner finds Lafayette/East plans lacking" »

Will the Buffalo school board make transparency a priority?

As journalists, we are taught present facts in a fair and balanced manner whenever possible and to avoid obvious bias and advocacy. But when it comes to issues of openness and transparency, journalists stand together in their belief that public organizations harm society (and in this case, harm children) when they support practices that hinder public access to information.

In the case of the Buffalo Public Schools, there are physical barriers to information access, such as where and how the school board conducts its meetings. And there are procedural and policy-related barriers to access, such as the district's failure to post public documents and agendas online, and its facilitation of "small group" meetings.

Continue reading "Will the Buffalo school board make transparency a priority?" »

Paladino renews his effort to get rid of the superintendent

Maverick board member Carl Paladino is resubmitting his motions to have Supt. Pamela Brown fired and to declare her June evaluation to be illegal. He says he'll be getting seconds to these motions at Wednesday's school board meeting, and he may. But if he gets the four votes necessary to support either motion, that would be a stunner.

Continue reading "Paladino renews his effort to get rid of the superintendent" »

Revising the revision on the music restoration (say that 3x fast!)

Okaaay. So I was out of the office yesterday and found a new revision request from the district in my inbox today regarding the music blog post and chart I posted on Wednesday.

Tuesday was when I had originally asked district administrators for chart information that detailed how many instrumental music teachers were in the schools this past school year, how many were budgeted for this coming year, and how many were restored. Straightforward, right? I thought I was in good shape because I was using information provided directly from the school district. I also asked district administrators to review my complete chart on Wednesday to clarify some issues, which they did. I revised Wednesday's blog post.

Continue reading "Revising the revision on the music restoration (say that 3x fast!)" »

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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 |