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City is auditing payroll of Buffalo school administrators

Buffalo's Department of Audit and Control has informed the Buffalo school district that it will be auditing the payroll of all non-union district administrators. Auditor Kevin J. Kaufman has already requested that the district provide preliminary information within the next 30 days.

Below is the letter from the city, sent Wednesday.

-- Sandra Tan and Jill Terreri

Comptroller Audit Letter 3-26 by Sandra Tan

Breakdown: How your school district fares under the state budget

Find private school test scores

Look up the results of the state English and math tests for more than 60 private schools across Western New York.

Online Database by Caspio
Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.

More than 6,000 students in the third through eighth grades at the region's private schools, mostly Catholic, took the tests in 2013.

Student proficiency in English was higher in Western New York than in any other region of New York. More than 47 percent of the private school students  met or exceeded the proficiency standards in English, compared to the statewide mark of 36 percent for private school students.

In math, 31 percent of the private school students in Western New York met or exceeded proficiency standards, the third highest mark for private school student among the state's 10 regions, according to state Education Department data.

Immaculate Conception in East Aurora and St. Gregory the Great, St. Benedict and Christ the King in Amherst are among the schools that posted strong results.  

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

Here we go again. ... After last week's marathon Buffalo school board meeting we'll reconvene for another round Wednesday.

This week's agenda is fairly mundane, but it's likely that some of the issues that surfaced last week will boil over again. Primarily, we expect to hear more from board member Carl Paladino about the district's appointments of high-ranking administrators who lack the appropriate state certification.

Those who are interested in following along will be able to keep up with our live blog.

The case of the forged signature rages on

Can a person actually forge his or her own signature?

Well, that's the argument that officials from Buffalo Public Schools are going with.

It all started last October when parent leader Timekia Jones filed a complaint with the State Education Department and with U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., alleging that school leaders forged her signature several times on key school documents.

Once of those documents was the 2013-14 School Comprehensive Plan, a road map to improving student learning at Harvey Austin School, where Jones is a teacher's aide. The signature of a parent representative is required to prove to the state that the school involved all stakeholders – including parents – in the development of school improvement and spending plans.

Jones said she was having a biopsy done at Buffalo General Medical Center at the time she supposedly signed the papers.

Then she spotted her signature on four other documents that pertain to Title I spending plans for the 2012-13 academic year, including signatures validating cash disbursements and other expenditures.

Again, she said, they were not her signatures.

But district officials responded to Jones’ attorneys last week that they had hired a “well-known, well-qualified investigation firm with a view toward obtaining an objective review.”

In the investigative process, the firm hired an handwriting expert, who concluded that Jones faked her own signature on the documents.

Yes, that’s right. The district is claiming that Jones used a method called disguised writing to deliberately fake her own signature.

Here’s a copy of the letter to Jones’ attorney from Rashondra M. Martin, the school district’s general counsel, stating the district’s position.

-- Deidre Williams


Background of Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander

The high-level Buffalo Public Schools administators who lack state certifications to hold their jobs have been described by Superintendent Pamela Brown as the "best qualified" candidates for their positions. It now appears their employment contracts with the district are "null and void." As first reported by The News on Wednesday, both women came from out of state and worked as educational consultants prior to coming to Buffalo in July and August of last year.

Although we have copies of their resumes, they are unfortunately scribbled-over copies that would be inappropriate to post. (If anyone could send us clean copies, we would be very appreciative.) Repeated requests for resume copies from the school district have gone unanswered.

So, thanks to a bit of very quick typing, below a very condensed rundown of Yamilette Williams' and Faith Alexander's curriculum vitaes. Their actual resumes are much more detailed. If we ever get them, we'll post them.

Continue reading "Background of Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander" »

UPDATED: Buffalo school urges parents not to transfer out their child

UPDATE: The Buffalo school district's chief of student support responded to this post. Scroll down for comments from Will Keresztes.

Since there are only a dozen schools in good standing in Buffalo, out of 56, these transfer requests not only pose huge headaches for the district but alarm principals in struggling schools who fear the drain in their school's enrollment.

One such school is International School 45, a Hoyt Street elementary school that serves many immigrant children. In a one-page letter recently sent home to parents, Acting Principal Lynn Piccirillo touted the school's positives and ended by stating, "I AM ASKING THAT YOU NOT TRANSFER YOUR CHILD FROM OUR SCHOOL."

Continue reading "UPDATED: Buffalo school urges parents not to transfer out their child" »

Live blog: Buffalo School Board meeting

The Buffalo schools have been bustling with news in the past few weeks, with critics jumping to weigh in on the controversial hiring of Mary Guinn and new plans to turn around some of the district's most struggling programs.

All of those issues are likely to come up at this week's school board meeting during which board members will be asked to sign off on plans for Bennett High School, Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute and Harvey Austin School. Board member Carl Paladino has also called for the board to suspend several administrators who lack the appropriate credentials for district leadership positions.

Follow along all the action right here at the School Zone where we will live blog the conversation. The fun starts at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Woes at Bennett High School

What to do with Bennett High School?

That is the question Buffalo Public School officials have been grappling with for awhile.

My story in today's paper points out some of the issues there and what school district officials are doing to address them.

Bennett is deemed a "priority" school by the State Education Department, meaning students there have failed for years to meet state learning standards. The graduation rate is well below 50 percent. More than 40 percent drop out. And fewer than 60 percent of Bennett seniors pass standardized math and science exams in 2012.

What's happening now seems to be a clash between teachers there and Principal Terry Ross, who was brought in from the outside last year to lead a turnaround at the school.

What's more, during a site visit last October, reviewers from the State Education Department tagged both the leadership and teaching practices at the beleaguered school.

Here's a link to the report: Bennett report. Click here to view a copy of Ross' resume. 

Download Terry ross resume


--Deidre Williams


The great debate: When should a school district notify you about a snow day? Take our poll!

This morning, the water cooler talk among parents was about what time their child's school district sent a robocall to their house informing them that schools would be closed because of the blizzard-like conditions.

Many suburban parents got the call late last night, some close midnight. Other parents, like those in Buffalo City Schools, got the robocall around 5:30 a.m. even though the school district had actually decided to close schools between 11 pm and midnight the night before.

Some suburban parents complained that they were irritated to get a call so late into the evening from their school districts. While some city parents were irritated that the Buffalo school district waited to inform parents until early the next morning.

In an ideal world, everyone would get the call at a more reasonable hour, say 8 p.m. or so. But that doesn't typically happen because no school district wants to be ridiculed for closing schools over doom-and-gloom forecasts that prove to be totally wrong.

So, assuming you're going to be inconvenienced one way or another, which would you prefer? Take our poll and let us know!

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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 |