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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.

As a new school year approaches and crises continue to weigh heavily on a district desperate for solutions, it will be interesting to see if the newly seated board chooses to give the concept of transparency more than lip service.

For years, the board has supported longstanding practices that are at odds with this concept. Here's one example. Below is the district's policy for conducting "small group meetings," which are held the Monday before every regular board meeting and carefully structured (by inviting less than a board majority) to circumvent the state's Open Meetings Law.

Small Group Meetings by Sandra Tan

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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