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Board members call Guinn's appointment "deceptive," "disrespectful" and "sinful"

Our story in today's paper referred to the lack of transparency in the hiring of the Interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn, but we simply didn't have enough inches to throw in the many comments of outrage and disapproval levied against the superintendent and board president for the way the vote went down.

As noted in our stories, former consultant Guinn was supported 5-3 by the board Wednesday even though several board members had no idea the issue was coming up. During a lengthy closed session at the end of the regular board meeting, Superintendent Pamela Brown and President Barbara Nevergold expressed their mistaken belief that the superintendent could name a deputy superintendent without board approval.

But outside education lawyer Karl Kristoff informed Brown and Nevergold during that private meeting that they were mistaken in their assumption, which they clearly didn't vet with Kristoff beforehand even though they knew Guinn's appointment was bound to be a controversial and high-profile matter.

We spoke with board members, community residents and PR folks about how Guinn was hired. We got an earful. Here is more of what they had to say:

Continue reading "Board members call Guinn's appointment "deceptive," "disrespectful" and "sinful"" »

Guinn, Quinn and Byron ...


How cute, that headline rhymes. Sort of.

Oh, there are so many things the School Zone team has to say about the last 24 hours of developments in the Buffalo Public Schools. But at the moment, everyone on the team is frantically writing stories about the latest turn of events, so we'll settle for a simpler blog post.

In case you've been stuck under a snow bank somewhere, and didn't get a chance to read the paper while stuck on the 33 this morning, here is a quick recap of what you missed:

- Buffalo Superintendent Pamela C. Brown surprises the school board by recommending they hire Mary Guinn as her deputy superintendent. Guinn had previously done consulting work for the district ... until the board terminated her contract. Here is a link to Brown's remarks  and Guinn's resume.

- Prominent community and business leader Larry Quinn officially throws his name in the race for city school board. Also interesting, although perhaps not as newsworthy, he produced a movie that takes place in inner city Buffalo and features Carl Paladino.

- Mayor Byron W. Brown said he is considering taking control of the city schools, joining the growing list of people who think they could do a better job than the current administration and the school board.

- The Diocese of Buffalo has finally hashed out its plans to offer scholarships to students at Buffalo schools seeking transfers. Interested parents, however, will have to pony up a minimum of $500.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for more details.

Off for a date with a deadline...

- Tiffany Lankes

Live blog at 11:30 a.m.: Buffalo School Supt. Pamela Brown holds press briefing

Live blog at 5:30 p.m.: Buffalo Board of Education Meeting

Buffalo School Board meets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall

Agenda items include plans to develop a feasibility study and preliminary design for a Medical Campus High School. 

New Yorkers no more familiar with Common Core than in November

New Yorkers are no more familiar with the new learning standards in classrooms than they were three months ago -- before a flurry of public forums on the Common Core. 

A Siena College Research Institute poll released Monday found about the same percentage of voters said they were "very familiar" with the Common Core learning standards than they were in November. This month, 23 percent of those polled said they were very familiar with the new standards. In November, 22 percent described themselves that way.

The 1 percent difference is within the poll's margin of error. 

Since Siena first started asking voters about the Common Core standards in November, a series of public forums focused on the new standards have been held by the state Department of Education, as well as school districts across the region. Local groups concerned about the implementation of the standards and the standardized tests tied to them have also held public meetings.

The poll released Monday also found that voters continue to be divided about the learning standards, with 36 percent saying they ware too demanding and 24 percent saying they're not demanding enough.

See the full poll results on the Siena College Research Institute's website here

-- Denise Jewell Gee

More on activist Sam Radford and the conclusion of the profile series

Today's lengthy personal profile on parent activist Samuel L. Radford III marks the last in a series of three profiles I've written about the Buffalo school district's new power players. We started with Superintendent Pamela Brown, and ran a prior profile on board member and developer Carl Paladino.

It's amazing how many commonalities these three figures share, despite being on opposite ends of so many education issues. All three faced deaths that altered the course of their lives. In Radford's case, it was the prospect of losing his own. Radford, like Paladino, once considered a career in the military. And both Radford and Superintendent Brown both can point to a specific, personal experience in their lives that convinced them that all children can learn, no matter how poor or disadvantaged.

None of the three high-profile figures I've written about came from privileged backgrounds, but rather had their characters forged under the heat of great adversity as young people.

Continue reading "More on activist Sam Radford and the conclusion of the profile series" »

Sam Radford's resume and upcoming Sunday profile

My in-depth profile story on Buffalo parent activist Samuel L. Radford III runs this Sunday. It represents the last of a three-profile series about the new power players in the Buffalo school district. Past profile stories include Superintendent Pamela Brown and board member Carl Paladino.

Radford's work history was too lengthy to be fully incorporated into the profile, but for those interested, below is a copy of his full resume. Check back here Sunday for my final thoughts on Radford and the conclusion of the profile series.

-- Sandra Tan

Samuel L. Radford's resume

Why do school state aid runs look like they're from the 80s? Because they are.

NYSED state aid runs
The Department of Education says the program it uses to tally state aid runs is reaching its useful life.

If you've ever tried to track down state aid numbers for a school district in the hours after the governor releases his budget, you might wonder why the report looks like its was created in the 1980s.

It's because it was -- or at least the computer program the state Department of Education uses to tally up exactly how much money each district would get.

The reports are a go-to source of information for superintendents and legislators to understand exactly how they would be impacted by a state budget proposal.

"It was great when I was a legislator because this process was there," Regent James R. Tallon Jr. told his colleagues this month. "The problem is, it's the same computer that we were using when I was there."

Continue reading "Why do school state aid runs look like they're from the 80s? Because they are." »

Changes in the Buffalo school district's reading department

Some concerned reading teachers have recently written us about changes happening in the Buffalo school district’s Reading Department and asked if The News could look into it. They asked who’s in charge of the district’s reading program now that the current supervisor of reading has been reassigned as assistant principal of Lorraine Academy.

"There has been no directive from Dr. Brown as to who is in charge of elementary reading," said one teacher. "How can we no longer have a Department of Reading? Reading teachers and instructional coaches are all very confused."

According to district spokeswoman Elena Cala, who also consulted with Chief of Talent Management Darren Brown, the district's Reading Department has been restructured, but hasn't gone away. She said the district's supervisor of reading, Sharon McCormick, has been temporarily assigned as an assistant principal at Lorraine Academy but will not lose her old job. Her title has been changed from "supervisor" to "instructional specialist - reading" but she'll keep her same job responsibilities after her temporary assignment is completed, Cala said.

Continue reading "Changes in the Buffalo school district's reading department" »

O'Malley announces bid for Ken-Ton School Board

By Joseph Popiolkowski

Jill O'Malley, director of the parent group Ken-Ton Parent Alliance and the donation site Ken-Ton Closet, announced today she is seeking a seat on the School Board this spring.

"My husband and I have discussed it and feel that this step is necessary to continue our efforts to advocate for the children of Ken-Ton," O'Malley said this afternoon in an email.

O'Malley is an outspoken opponent of the district's ongoing consolidation process, which may see schools close as the district faces shrinking enrollment. She is active in district affairs, often attending board meetings and sharing notes. The Ken-Ton Closet, based at the Sheridan Parkside Community Center, collects clothing and school supplies and distributes it to needy children in the district.

School Board elections will be held May 20. The seats currently held by Trustees Judy Frank and Jeff Rickan are up for grabs. They have not yet announced whether they will run for another term.

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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 |