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Profiles in Education: The News' look at the area's key figures

* Feb. 23: Samuel L. Radford, District Parent Coordinating Council president

* Feb. 9: Carl Paladino, Buffalo Board of Education member

* Jan. 19: Pamela Brown, Buffalo Public Schools superintendent


News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan discusses the Profiles in Education series

Tan on what made profiling Carl Paladino challenging

Buffalo board members argue about attendance at executive committee meetings

During Wednesday’s Executive Affairs Committee meeting, Buffalo school board members were divided on who should be allowed to sit in on the group’s Executive Committee meetings.

Similar name, but unlike other board committees that are open to all members the Executive Committee has typically been made up of the president and two vice presidents – the board’s elected positions.

But recently School Board President Barbara Nevergold departed from that practice by letting member Mary Ruth Kapsiak attend the meetings. That didn’t sit well with vice president Jason McCarthy, who on Wednesday argued that allowing a fourth member to attend is unfair because it automatically excludes any other board members who might wish to participate. That’s because if five or more board members convene at the same time it becomes a public meeting under the state’s open government laws.

“For the Board President to unilaterally give preferential treatment to one board member over all others is concerning to me,” McCarthy wrote in a memo to Nevergold.

That issue apparently came up in December at a meeting with the state education department. Both Kapsiak and Paladino showed up and wanted to sit in, but Paladino was asked to leave so the meeting would not become public.

Other board members came to Kapsiak’s defense, saying she was invited to attend because she has expertise in the topics discussed. Kapsiak was a teacher, and held numerous positions in the Buffalo Public Schools, including overseeing elementary education.

Still, McCarthy and other board members said it’s dangerous to start playing one board’s members background against another, especially when it could determine their participation in a meeting.

If that were the case, John Licata pointed out, Paladino should be the only board member allowed to sit on the Joint Schools Construction Board.

Paladino, a developer, has repeatedly tried to get a spot on that committee, a request that Nevergold has just as repeatedly refused.

- Tiffany Lankes


Ken-Ton School Board to interview 3 superintendent search firms

By Joseph Popiolkowski

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board will interview three search firms Saturday as they begin the process of finding a successor for School Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro who announced on Jan. 14 he is retiring this summer.

The board is scheduled to interview Castallo & Silky from Syracuse, Warren Center for Education Reform from Rochester and School Leadership LLC from Malverbe, NY.

The special board meeting begins at 11 a.m. in the district's administration building on Colvin Boulevard. The board will be in executive session for the interviews but has added an action item to the agenda.

The board will consider a resolution calling upon the state legislature to immediately eliminate the gap-elimination adjustment, which has cut Ken-Ton's state aid by more than $33 million since 2010 to balance the state's budget, according to the resolution.

Board President Bob Dana also said the district will likely schedule four public forums for the end of February and beginning of March to discuss the four school consolidation scenarios under consideration. Two forums aimed at school employees will be held immediately following the school day and two forums for the general public will be held later in the evening. The dates, times and locations have yet to be announced.

Canisius High School responds to house party incident

In my last blog post and today's story, I indicated that none of the private high schools responded to The News' request for comment regarding the house party on Dec. 27 that left a Parkside home trashed. But I came into work today and found an email waiting for me from Fr. Joseph Costantino, president of Cansius High School. He sent me a lengthy email at 10 p.m. Wednesday because he said he'd been booked from morning to night with various events. So I followed up with him today.

He said the high school's dean of students is heading up Canisius's own internal investigation today regarding students who may have participated in the destructive house party that caused thousands of dollars in damage. According to police last week, there were six students from Canisius who were at the party. Fr. Joe said the school is working with police to determine if that's an accurate number, identify who the students are, and determine appropriate disciplinary action.

"If there are any kids, we want to see that that behavior is stopped," he said. "Throughout history, there’s always been some kids you can’t control. Parents have the problem, too."

Continue reading "Canisius High School responds to house party incident" »

Restrained response by high school leaders to house party incident

UPDATE: Fr. Joseph Costantino, president of Canisius High School, did respond via email to The News late last night. Blog follow up to come.

The leaders of top area high schools clearly felt pressure to respond to concerned parents and alumni after The Buffalo News ran a story about a wild house party in which their students caused thousands of dollars in damage and thefts.

But it's equally clear they really wished they didn't have to. Of the four schools contacted by The News via phone and email, only the principal of City Honors, William Kresse, responded. He also sent out the lengthiest response to parents and alumni. (Of course, City Honors also had the greatest number of students present at the home wrecking event.) The leaders of the other three -- Nardin, Canisius and St. Joseph's -- chose not to write their own tailored response. Instead, all three schools sent out the same statement under their own banners.

Continue reading "Restrained response by high school leaders to house party incident" »

Video: School 54 after-school program

Geneive Jones-Johnson, principal of School 54, says the program helps to reinforce learning in students and to get their homework done.

City Honors principal responds to student participation in house party gone wrong

Last week, The Buffalo News reported a story about a teenage cat sitter who threw a party at the home she was looking after on Dec. 27, resulting in the owners returning from their trip to Costa Rica to a completely trashed house. Even more noteworthy was the fact that the roughly 50 kids who attended this party, committing vandalism and theft along the way, came from Buffalo area’s best high schools: City Honors School, Nardin Academy, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Canisius High School.

The story has obviously struck a chord with people everywhere, generating more than 800 comments on The Buffalo News website and catching fire on social media.

On Tuesday, City Honors School Principal William A. Kresse issued a letter to City Honors parents stating that 19 current students and seven recent graduates have so far been identified as part of the incident. He also said that he and his staff are as disturbed by what transpired as parents are, and encouraged parents to contact the Buffalo Police if they believe their child may have been involved.

Continue reading "City Honors principal responds to student participation in house party gone wrong" »

How much does your child's teacher earn? Here's an Erie-Niagara breakdown.

Below is a chart showing the average salaries for public school teachers in all of the Erie and Niagara county school districts.

The information, provided by the Empire Center for Public Policy and based on state data, accompanies a media release indicating that from 2008-09  to 2012-13, the statewide median teacher salary rose by 10 percent -- and the median for downstate suburban districts increased almost twice as much.

In Erie County, the average public school teacher's salary for 2012-13 was $62,510. In Niagara County, the average was $64,520.

Continue reading "How much does your child's teacher earn? Here's an Erie-Niagara breakdown." »

Video: A teacher talks about meditation and its impact on students

JoAnna Nagle of Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School talks about her meditations class where students learn about affirmation, positive thinking, mindfulness, yoga and other meditation exercises.

Supt. Brown ramping up public and media outreach efforts

So this is interesting. Supt. Pamela Brown announced Wednesday that she will begin holding weekly briefings with the media, starting today at noon. She's billing it as "the first in a series of talks to update the public about the ongoing developments occurring in the Buffalo Public Schools."

In addition, she spent considerable time in her opening remarks to the School Board on Wednesday updating the board and public about the many ways she's reaching out to parents and the community. Unlike her usual opening remarks, where she stays seated at the board table, she got up and walked around to the speaker's lectern and took the board and the rest of the audience through a nine-slide PowerPoint presentation (see below).

The last two slides she showed are part her new "myth busting" campaign called "Just the Facts." For this first "Just the Facts" effort, she said she was dispelling the "myth" that the district has failed in its efforts to successfully submit school improvement applications to the State Education Department.

Continue reading "Supt. Brown ramping up public and media outreach efforts" »

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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 |