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The Buffalo school district's new organizational chart

Superintendent Pamela Brown spoke with The Buffalo News Friday morning regarding the reorganization of her central office. Before we ended our interview, she promised two things: that we would be given an updated organizational chart and listing of new hires; and that the chief of her human resources department would speak with us to answer and clarify any outstanding questions.

So we waited. And waited. In the end, we got some of the first, and none of the second.

One thing we did receive, which was extremely helpful, was an updated flow chart for the Buffalo school district's central administration. Given how difficult it can be to figure out who is in charge of what in the city school district, this flow chart -- labeled with names -- is practically a Rosetta Stone key for any parent looking for assistance, and any curious citizen looking for a bit more insight into how the school district operates.

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Pamela Brown's job qualifications

A day after surviving a 5-4 vote regarding her dismissal, Buffalo Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown spent a little time Thursday pushing back against maverick board member Carl Paladino's assertion that she has no leadership experience.

“I certainly am up to the job,” she said. “I know there’s been some mention of my not having managerial experience. I have about 20 years of experience managing schools and large departments in other school districts. I have managed thousands of people prior to coming to Buffalo.”

For those who are curious about her experience, we've posted her resume at the end of this blog post.

Brown said Thursday she doesn’t anticipate serious problems working with the board going forward.

“There are so many things on which the board and I absolutely agree,” she said. “We believe we need to drastically improve the performance of all of our schools, and that’s what I’m working on every day. We sometimes disagree on exactly how that should be done, or what should be done, but I have to keep moving forward because the children in our schools are depending on us to focus on their needs.”

  Superintendent Pamela Brown resume

Live blog of Buffalo school board meeting Sept. 25, including vote on Supt. Brown

[UPDATE: This meeting ran for nearly 7 hours, ending after midnight, most likely a meeting record. We received more than 470 blog messages throughout the night. Thanks to everyone who followed the blog and participated.]

Very busy meeting tonight, including action on: the termination of Superintendent Pamela Brown, the employment of consultant Mary Guinn, the district's revised student transfer plan, the hiring of Lorey Schultz as the new chief of public relations, and a transparency resolution to move board meetings out of City Hall.

Here's a copy of the agenda, although many of the hot button issues above aren't listed anywhere because of the way the agenda is put together.

More on Mary Guinn and Cross & Joftus

Today's story about the district's hiring of the Cross and Joftus educational consulting company, and consultant Mary Guinn raises questions about the role of a consultant in a school district, particularly one who is working full-time and being treated, in many respects, like an administrator.

Board members are expected to vote today on a resolution by James Sampson to terminate the district's contract with Guinn's employer, Cross & Joftus. Here is a copy of the contract, which appears incomplete but was signed by Scott Joftus, former board president Mary Ruth Kapsiak and Superintendent Pamela Brown. Below is Guinn's resume.

Tonight's board meeting includes a huge and controversial agenda. Check back here for the live blog of the meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m.

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Why doesn't The Buffalo News write more "positive" education stories?

This is a question/complaint I hear or read about roughly once a week in some form. I heard this question far more frequently last week. It was mentioned in passing at school board meeting where a board members complained that the district has a "public image problem." It was an undercurrent at the Thursday rally in support of Superintendent Pamela Brown. And it was heard in regard to the district's hiring of a second public relations administrator. 

The long version of this question/complaint is: "There are so many good things happening in the Buffalo City Schools. Teachers are working really hard, schools have these amazing community partnerships, suspensions are down, more students are graduating compared with last year, etc. Why doesn't The Buffalo News write about that?"

This question is typically stated in an accusatory fashion and often followed by self-drawn conclusions like: The News just wants to write negative, sensational stories that sell papers, or The Buffalo News has its own agenda or is somehow an instrument of The Man.

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State wants evidence of parental involvement in district plans

Below is the letter from the State Education Department to Buffalo Superintendent Pamela Brown asking for proof that the district involved parents in its federal grant application and in its District Comprehensive Improvement Plan, as required by law.

District Parent Coordinating Council President Sam Radford has managed to gain a surprising amount of leverage over Buffalo school district leaders through his in-depth understanding of parent rights under state education law. It has yet to be seen whether, in this case, the State Education Department will find fault with the Buffalo school district.

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How would you fare in Buffalo's Middle School Math League competition? Test questions and answers.

Can you do as well as the Buffalo City Schools students who participated in the 2013 Middle School Math League competition? Following is one question from each of the three math meet packets, as well as a tie breaker question. The answers are at the bottom.

(To view a video of math teacher Keith Wiley, check out the previous blog post.)


Continue reading "How would you fare in Buffalo's Middle School Math League competition? Test questions and answers." »

Math teacher Keith Wiley in words and action

Houghton Academy math teacher Keith Wiley, who is featured in Sunday's story, describes himself as "a big kid" but also says he's a big believer in data analysis. If most students get a test question wrong, he says, "that's on me" and rethinks how to teach the concept.

"Once you've taught something, you have to assess and say, 'Do they really have it?'"

 He added, "A lot of people say, 'I don't know math. I don't like math. I can't do math.' Well, you haven't had me yet."

Here's Wiley describing how the Middle School Math League competition works. An energetic teacher, even for this video he found it hard to sit still.

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More schools partner with Say Yes

There may not be a lot of good news coming out of Buffalo City Schools right now, but Say Yes is one of them. At a press conference held this morning, Say Yes to Education officials named 11 more schools - including three Ivy League universities - that will provide fully paid college tuition to eligible students.

It should be noted that these scholarships aren't free rides for everyone. Aside from income limitations, students still must still get accepted to these schools and meet the schools' admission standards on their own merits. That's why Say Yes offers other student support services, so that eventually more students will be able to qualify for college admission.

Here's the full list of 40 private Say Yes colleges that are open to Buffalo public and charter school students (newly added schools in bold):

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Answers! Buffalo school principal changes for 2013-14

A month after my initial request and 1 1/2 weeks into the new school year, the Buffalo school district has finally provided a completed list of the principal changes for this school year. The chart below shows the principal changes for all schools, what the background is of the new principal and what happened to the last one.

Principals have changed at 13 Buffalo public schools, including the former Pinnacle Charter School, which is being annexed by the Buffalo Public School district. Five were principals at different Buffalo schools last year, four were formerly assistant principals who have promoted within the district, and three new principals were recruited from outside the area. 

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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 |