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Why a mayoral takeover of Buffalo schools is so unpopular

Many voters in the City of Buffalo see the crisis in public education as the top issue facing the city. Concerns raised by the state education commissioner, the governor and local stakeholders have only added to the speculation regarding future school leadership.

But when it comes the idea of a Buffalo mayor taking control of the beleaguered Buffalo school district, a majority of voters are of the same opinion: It’s a bad idea.

More than half of Democratic voters surveyed before the mayoral primary – 52 percent – said they oppose the mayor being in control of Buffalo schools, according to the Siena College poll commissioned by The Buffalo News and WGRZ. Only 36 percent supported the it.

Continue reading "Why a mayoral takeover of Buffalo schools is so unpopular" »

Live blog of Buffalo school board meeting Sept. 11

The Buffalo Board of Education meets today at 5:30 p.m. in Room 801 of City Hall. The board is expected to discuss a number of changes designed to improve board and district transparency, based on a resolution by board member James Sampson. A number of resolutions by Carl Paladino are also slated for discussion. Click here for the board agenda.

Two elite Buffalo public schools revisit admissions standards

Hi everybody. It’s Deidre Williams here just following up from last week’s committee meetings at the Buffalo Board of Education.

There were developments we didn’t have time to get into because of the fire alarm that abruptly ended the meeting.

Before that happened, the principals of City Honors and Olmsted 156 talked about how they are loosening their admissions requirements for kids who want to get into two of the most competitive high schools in the district.

Until now there have been seven requirements but now going forward there will be six.

City Honors will get rid of its standardized essays, while Olmsted will drop the creativity tests.


Continue reading "Two elite Buffalo public schools revisit admissions standards" »

Does education really matter most in the Buffalo mayor's race?

So, according to the Siena College poll commissioned by the Buffalo News and WGRZ, education ranked first as the "single most important" issue in voters' decisions of who to vote for in the Democratic mayoral primary between incumbent Mayor Byron Brown and challenger Bernie Tolbert.

But is it really?

Here are the actual poll results:

Q: What issue would say is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT in your decision of who to vote for in the Democratic Mayoral Primary?

  • 29% Education
  • 24% Economic development
  • 20% Jobs
  • 19% Crime
  • 4% Other
  • 2% City taxes

Continue reading "Does education really matter most in the Buffalo mayor's race?" »

Who's the school principal, and what happened to the last one? Good question.

Three weeks ago, in anticipation of the start of a new school year, I asked the school district to fill me in on principal changes. The request was very straightforward and had three parts:

Which schools are seeing a change in principals? Who are the new principals and where did they come from? What happened to the last principal?

After repeated requests, and repeated assurances by Darren Brown, the district's chief of talent management, that this information would be provided soon (when I last asked Wednesday he said I'd have it all Thursday), I still don't have it. What I did get emailed to me close to midnight on Thursday is a list of every Buffalo school (including Pinnacle) and the name of every school principal.

Continue reading "Who's the school principal, and what happened to the last one? Good question." »

Fire alarm trumps student transfer information in "Hey, Martha" moment

The most interesting thing that happened at Wednesday's Buffalo school board committee meeting was probably the fire alarm. It forced board members and administrators to trudge down eight flights of steps and get whipped by the wind outside as firefighters struggled in vain to turn off the blaring fire alarm system at City Hall.

Who knows when's the last time, if ever, that board members actually took a vote on a sidewalk in the darkness to adjourn its meeting?

But in terms of actual board business, we give the nod to district's comprehensive breakdown of the 2,000+ students who requested transfers from underperforming schools into schools in good standing with the state.  (For a minute-by-minute meeting breakdown, see the previous blog post.)

Continue reading "Fire alarm trumps student transfer information in "Hey, Martha" moment" »

Live blog: Buffalo school board committee meetings Sept. 4

On the agenda: Update on Pinnacle Charter School and student transfer requests, and preparations for the start of school. The live blog will begin shortly after 5 p.m. with the Education Support Services Committee meeting, followed by the Student Achievement Committee meeting, which starts at 7.


East and Lafayette plans are approved, but all is not well

Following up on my last post, here's more news out of Albany...

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. has finally approved the school turnaround plans for East and Lafayette high schools. He's also given his blessing for the district to have Johns Hopkins run East and Lafayette, while Erie 1 BOCES provides vocational services for those students.

In addition, he's approved having two other outside organizations take over Buffalo Elementary School of Technology (BEST) and Highgate Heights School 80, which would put those schools in line for millions in federal grant money.

But it's not all happy stuff -- at all.

Continue reading "East and Lafayette plans are approved, but all is not well" »

District still needs "training wheels" in crafting student transfer plan

I'm back from vacation, and the news has been pouring in from Albany. (Check back for another post soon-to-follow regarding the approval of East and Lafayette plans.)

As noted in today's story, the State Education Department has, for the third time, required the district to further revise its plan to accommodate students who want to transfer out of struggling schools and into better ones.

The ongoing difficulty of the district to submit approval plans to the state has been an ongoing sore spot with state ed officials. Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz said Tuesday the state has ramped up its technical assistance to Buffalo City Schools and "can't take off the training wheels" because district leaders aren't showing the ability to do comprehensive planning on their own.

Continue reading "District still needs "training wheels" in crafting student transfer plan" »

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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 |