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Last-minute contract signing and King's comments about School 80

Monday already seems like ages ago, but at Monday's city school board meeting, some rather important business was taken care of at the end - the very, very end. In fact, it required the board president to hang around after the meeting was over just to make a few things official.

The board approved four contracts that the State Education Department was impatiently waiting on, several of which State Education Commissioner John King has spoken about at length as examples of the "lack of effectiveness" of the Buffalo school district administration:

  • The contract with Johns Hopkins University to serve as the lead supervising agency for Lafayette and East high schools.
  • The contract with Westminster Foundation to serve as the lead supervisor for Highgate Heights Elementary School 80.
  • The contract with Research to Practice, which the district wants to serve as the lead supervisor for Buffalo Elementary School of Technology School 6.

In his comments last week to The Buffalo News editorial board, King referred several times to the Westminster Foundation contract as proof that the district has serious difficulty submitting approvable plans.

"I want to bring up School 80 again, which illustrates that this is not just an East and Lafayette problem," he said. "This is a district problem."

Then, with a surprising level of detail, he went on to describe how the district submitted a grant application for Highgate Heights Elementary School 80, naming Westminster Foundation as the lead supervisor for that school. But the district didn't submit a signed contract agreement with the foundation as part of its grant application. King sounded genuinely appalled that the district failed to complete this basic requirement.

In lieu of an actual contract with the foundation, affiliated with Westminster Community Charter School and M&T Bank, the district substituted a memo and tried to pass it off as a contract agreement "knowing it wasn't," King said.

On Monday, the school board finally approved the contract for Highgate Heights School 80. But that contract, and others, weren't actually seen by the board in final form because the district staff was still furiously working on them even after the board meeting adjourned. That left board President Barbara Nevergold and district lawyer Rashondra Martin to wait around awhile until the documents could be brought in for their signatures.

All the contracts managed to get signed and sent to the state Monday less than an hour before the close of business. Talk about a deadline!


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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 |