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What's the racial composition of your school?

Curious what your neighborhood school looks like racially? Search our database to find demographic information about schools in Erie and Niagara counties.

Then, read more about this issue in The Buffalo News’ Sunday print and online edition.

Day 1, Sunday: How integrated are the Buffalo schools four decades after the desegregation order?

Day 2, Monday: The changing face of schools in Erie and Niagara counties

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No "fun" allowed for children who refuse to take state tests?

It's understandable that principals want to discourage their students and students' parents from opting out of this week's state assessment tests, but those opting out say they've gotten more than a little backlash in some cases. Several parents in Buffalo Public Schools have reported that they felt like they were being intimidated by school building leaders and treated with hostility when they chose to opt their children out of tests. The district said it would take all parent complaints seriously.

But parents aren't the only ones getting blowback for refusing to take the tests. DPCC President Sam Radford said some parents report children being reduced to tears for refusing to take the tests.

Finally, at Lorraine Elementary School 72, the principal promoted an annual "Fun Day" at Cazenovia Park for children in grades 3 - 8 to reward students for good behavior. This year's note to parents, however, stated that children with major discipline write-ups AND children who did not take all state assessment tests would not be allowed to participate.

Live blog of Buffalo School Board meetings April 2 starting at 4 p.m.

The Buffalo School Board is holding a special meeting at 4 p.m. today in Room 801 of City Hall to take action on administrators Faith Alexander and Yamilette Williams. That special board meeting will be followed by regular board committee meetings.

We're live blogging these meetings so check back later today and follow us.

Buffalo school district adopts "sit-and-stare" policy

Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown issued a policy directive to all principals and assistant principals stating the formal policy of the district is that students who refuse to take the state standardized assessment will not be provided any other reading materials to pass the time.

"Students will only be allowed to read the assessment," Brown stated.

Until now, the district has had no formal policy regarding how to handle students who refuse to take the state assessments. It was left to each principal to decide how to address the matter.

Violation of Open Meetings Law debated (but they're still wrong)

When The Buffalo News prepared to publish a short story Monday night indicating that the Buffalo School Board apparently violated the state's Open Meetings Law by holding a two-hour board budget meeting without informing the public, the district pushed back.

As we noted in our brief story, board members came together to both receive information about the 2014-15 budget and to ask for board feedback on a variety of budget issues, including prospective cuts to personnel and district services. We described the meeting as an "informal work session." Based on board member descriptions, it actually sounded a lot like a public Finance and Operations Committee meeting. 

But spokeswoman Elena Cala and board president Barbara Nevergold described the meeting, which six of nine board members attended, as an "informational workshop" that was meant to convey information, not conduct official business. Subsequently, Cala sent News education reporters an email today in which she referenced a written advisory opinion by Robert Freeman, head of the NYS Committee on Open Government.

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.

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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


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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 |