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Live blog of Buffalo School Board meeting Jan. 22

Tonight's regular meeting of the Buffalo School Board includes consideration of charter renewals for Westminster and Enterprise charter schools. Board member Carl Paladino also has several interesting resolutions up for consideration this evening.

The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. in Room 801 of City Hall. Here's a link to the full board packet. Please join us for our live -- and lively! -- blog.

Searchable database: Cuomo aid proposal for all school districts in New York

How did your school district fare under the governor's budget proposal?

Find out -- and compare your district to all the others in your county or the entire state.

Hold down the Control key (Command key on a Mac) to select multiple counties or districts.

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The proposed 2014-15 state aid figures do not include building aid, nor do the 2008-09 or 2013-14 state aid figures.

The 2008-09 and 2013-14 figures are taken from state aid runs published at the time the state Legislature adopted each budget. The 2013-14 state aid figures posted this week by the governor will in some cases differ somewhat from the aid figures on the state aid runs posted in the spring, as those numbers are updated and revised throughout the year.

The state lacked complete 2014-15 data for three districts, so you will see that reflected in the data we have posted.

Breakdown: State aid by school district -- this year's budget proposal vs. last year's

The proposed 2014-15 state aid figures do not include building aid, nor do the 2013-14 state aid figures.

The 2013-14 figures are taken from state aid runs published at the time the state Legislature adopted each budget. The 2013-14 state aid figures posted this week by the governor will in some cases differ somewhat from the aid figures on the state aid runs posted in the spring, as those numbers are updated and revised throughout the year.

More censorship nonsense on Carl Paladino's resolutions

Back in November, we wrote a blog item criticizing the Buffalo school district for redacting chunks of board member Carl Paladino's resolutions with black marker. But the practice, unfortunately, continues.

This week, Paladino submitted five board resolutions for consideration at Wednesday's regular board meeting. One involves the request that the forgery of a parent's signature on school documents be investigated by outside district education lawyer Karl Kristoff.  In two places, the name "Mrs. Jones" was covered by a black box.

Mrs. Jones would be Timekia Jones, the parent facilitator at Harvey Austin Elementary School who has accused the principal of having her name forged on a variety of official school documents submitted to the state. The Buffalo News has written no fewer than four prominent stories about this woman over the past three months in which Jones has been extensively quoted. She's also posed for photos, most recently for a story we ran last Tuesday.

Continue reading "More censorship nonsense on Carl Paladino's resolutions" »

Former student rep wants to run for Buffalo school board

It appears that former Buffalo School Board student representative Stephon Wright intends to run for one of the three at-large seats on the board up for election in May. Wright has made no broad, formal media announcement about his intention to run, but that hasn't stopped him from sending out notices about his first fund raiser in February.

Wright was an Emerson High School graduate in 2012, and the first student representative to the school board in the spring of that year. He had previously asked to be considered for an appointment to a regular, vacated at-large seat before the board agreed to appoint a non-voting student board member.

Continue reading "Former student rep wants to run for Buffalo school board" »

Education profiles series and interviewing Pamela Brown

Today's lengthy profile on Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown was originally conceived months ago as the first in a series of three detailed profiles of the new power players in the Buffalo school district. Aside from Brown, I also wanted to profile developer and board member Carl Paladino and parent advocate Sam Radford.

Those profiles are now complete and will run as part of a longer, ongoing series of education profiles over the coming weeks. (Many of you may have read the profile on Regent Robert Bennett last Sunday, for instance, done by my colleague Denise Gee.)

For the profiles on Brown, Paladino and Radford, I wanted to give readers a more complete view of these individuals as human beings shaped and motivated by their own life experiences. I also wanted to convey to readers why these people should matter to us, put their accomplishments and shortcomings into context, and show how they're viewed by others.

Frequently, the goal of reporting is to take something complicated and make it sound simple. But nothing about Pamela Brown, Carl Paladino or Sam Radford is simple. They didn't achieved their level of influence and prominence, or grow their ambition and convictions, by taking short cuts in life.

Continue reading "Education profiles series and interviewing Pamela Brown" »

Parents saddened by news of St. Leo closing

By Joseph Popiolkowski

St. Leo lost more than its varsity basketball game Wednesday night.

Players’ parents, who had just learned the news hours earlier, lined the gym at St. Amelia’s in the Town of Tonawanda where St. Leo lost to Niagara Catholic, 58-31. Parents said they were still reeling from the announcement that St. Leo is closing in June and had yet to fully process it.

Kathleen Mayer, a past president of the St. Leo’s Home School Association, teared up as she recalled the education her four sons — including Michael, a seventh-grader, and Nicholas, a fifth-grader — received from St. Leo’s teachers such as their beloved science and math instructor Bernie Wdzieczny.

“Because it was a small school, everybody was a family,” she said. “If your child was sick, the kindergarten teacher would ask how they were feeling, or the eighth-grade teacher, or the music teacher. Everybody knew everybody and it was comforting to send them there every day knowing they were safe and secure.”

Several parents said they believed St. Leo’s greenspace, including a baseball diamond and soccer field, and other amenities, such as its gymnasium and cafeteria, were advantages that might help protect it from being closed. Parents said they believed St. Leo might merge with nearby Catholic elementary schools Christ the King and St. Benedict.

“We were led to believe that we had the biggest chance — that the other schools might close and we would be the one to take over,” said Pete Gozelski, whose son Luke is a seventh-grader. “I was under that assumption.”

“I was surprised they closed schools instead of merging schools,” said Bob Kirchgessner, whose sons are eighth- and sixth-graders. “Everything we read on the diocesan website was that they wanted big, strong schools. They said they wanted 400 students. They didn’t merge any schools. The schools left open may get marginally bigger in the short term but they haven’t really strengthened them.”

Ann Marie Taft, of Amherst, said she transferred her son and daughter from St. Leo to St. Amelia for the 2012-2013 school year because she saw more opportunities for them in academics and athletics at the much larger school.

“My gosh, they have chess club, two languages and they spend 45 minutes, twice a week, on art,” she said of St. Amelia. “It was academically more enriching.”

Taft said she decided to make the transition after watching St. Leo’s enrollment decline year after year and always wondering if the school’s closure was imminent.

“We did sort of anticipate that this could always be a possibility, every year it could be a possibility,” she said. “It didn’t come really as a surprise. But my heart does go out to the families that have to change.”

St. Leo basketball coach Gerald Smith, whose son, Brandon, is an eighth-grader on the team, said he tried to not let the news interfere with Wednesday night's game.

"I feel so close to these guys from coaching them from third grade all the way up to eighth," he said. "They have a special place in my heart and so does the school."

Video: Diocesan secretary for education explains closing rationale

Full coverage of the closings: Article, photo gallery and more

Principal, pastor of St. Leo the Great react to closing

By Joseph Popiolkowski

"Utter surprise" was how the principal of St. Leo the Great in Amherst described her reaction to the announcement that the school is one of 10 Catholic elementary schools closing in June as part of a major restructuring by the Diocese of Buffalo.

"We were all on edge about it," Carolyn Kraus said this afternoon in her office after learning the news this morning. "You wonder, back and forth. You go one way then you go the other way and you hope for the best. Then, when the decision finally comes, you're saddened and surprised."

Continue reading "Principal, pastor of St. Leo the Great react to closing" »

Video: Bishop Malone on reasons for decision to close 10 schools

Full coverage of the closings: Article, photo gallery and more

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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 |