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More woes for Martin Luther King elementary students

As noted in today's story, at least 100 more elementary students will be displaced from Buffalo's Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute as the district moves forward with its plans to turn the school in the new Buffalo Medical Campus High School.

The state Education Department sent a letter to Supt. Pamela Brown on Wednesday stating that they believe the district's plans to convert MLK to a Medical Campus High School are too ambitious despite a recently awarded $3.9 million federal grant. The district had planned to convert MLK, which serves children in grades pre-k through eight, into a middle school/high school that would eventually serve students in grades five through 12.

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Buffalo School Board live blog starting at 4 pm: Special and regular meetings

Please join our live blog today starting at 4 p.m. when the Buffalo School Board holds a special meeting to begin discussing leadership transition plans once Supt. Pamela Brown leaves the district. That discussion may include extending the employment contract of interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn.

That meeting will be followed by a regularly scheduled meeting of the board at 5:30 p.m. Click here for the board agenda packet. Among the agenda items up for approval is the renewal of Johns Hopkins University as the educational leader for Lafayette and East high schools, and the approval of the 2014-15 school calendar.

The district will also be live streaming these meetings. You can find the link to the live stream here.

Charter schools fight back against BTF report that found fault with charters

Early this month, the School Zone blog posted a report by the Buffalo Teachers Federation criticizing charter schools. Among other things, the union report indicated that local charter schools are less inclusive of special education students and English language learners, and having higher suspension rates.

Local charter schools were none too happy about this. Not only did they issue an immediate response to my initial blog post, but they've since followed up with a 20-page report taking on the BTF study point by point. Below is that report, released this morning.

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What's the hold up on teacher evaluation data? NYSED says 'personally identifiable information'

Back when the state Education Department released the results of teacher evaluations for the first time, state officials said they planned to release district-by-district results in late fall or early winter.

That was October. The detailed evaluation results have not yet been released.

Continue reading "What's the hold up on teacher evaluation data? NYSED says 'personally identifiable information'" »

Controversy over Buffalo schools' parent involvement policy

As previously reported in our news story and live blog of last week's meeting, the Buffalo School Board is considering significant changes to its parent involvement policy. The new draft policy would include more parent groups and make changes requested by the state. But it would also eliminate the District Parent Coordinating Council as the official, representative parent group for the district.

Below is a color-coded copy of the new draft policy. Red indicates additions. Green indicates the organization requesting the change (BPTO = Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization, SED = State Education Department). Strikethrus represent language proposed for deletion.

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Comptroller offers his two cents to Buffalo School Board on lawsuits

It's rare for Buffalo city administrators to weigh in on affairs regarding Buffalo Public Schools outside of budget time, at least not without outside pressure. But here's an unsolicited letter from Comptroller Mark Schroeder to the school board regarding some outstanding lawsuits against the district.

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A retirement worth $200,000? Former North Tonawanda superintendent ranks 24th among top educator pensions

Two retired Western New York superintendents have landed on the Empire Center's list of education retirees with the highest annual pension benefits.

Former North Tonawanda Superintendent John H. George's $206,493 annual pension benefit ranked 24th on the list of retired educators with the 100 highest annual pension benefits.

Howard S. Smith, who retired as superintendent of Williamsville in 2011, came in at 79, with an annual pension of $171,887.

See the entire list here

The Empire Center last week updated its pension database for state teachers and school administrators after the state Court of Appeals ruled that information must be made public. The think tank had sought the information under the state's open records law.

Most of the 100 top pension earners retired from school districts downstate, according to the Empire Center.

A 2008 story in The Buffalo News by Staff Reporter Mary Pasciak explained why George was able to retire with an annual pension that was larger than his salary. The story, "Educators hit pay dirt with pensions," noted that George cashed in on hundreds of days of unused vacation and sick time that he had earned during his 17 years as superintendent.

Search the entire pension database at Empire Center's

-- Denise Jewell Gee

Live blog: Buffalo School Board committee meetings 5 p.m.

Please join the live blog for Buffalo School Board committee meetings, which start at 5 p.m. in Room 801 of City Hall. Tonight's meetings include the Executive Affairs Committee meeting and the Finance and Operations Committee meeting.

Board members may be debating changes to the district's parent involvement policy, which includes limiting the authority of the District Parent Coordinating Council. The board will also set a date for a special meeting to discuss a leadership transition plan for the district.

The written ruling dismissing Paladino's bid to unseat Nevergold

This week, State Supreme Court Judge Tracey Bannister dismissed Carl Paladino's petition to unseat Buffalo School Board President Barbara Nevergold. This was Paladino's third failed attempt to get rid her. He twice petitioned the state education commissioner to oust Nevergold before resorting to the court system.

Below is Judge Bannister's written decision, dated Monday.

-- Sandra Tan

Paladino v. Nevergold Court Decision

Video: Pamela Brown's press conference

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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 |