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Report: Number of voters in school board elections on 5-year decline as more budgets pass on first try

NYSASBO: Voter Turnout
A New York State Association of School Business Officials analysis found voter turnout had decreased by 52 percent since 2010. (


Statewide voter turnout in school board elections has been steadily decreasing since 2010, while budget approval rates have increased, according to a new analysis.

Live blog: Buffalo school board meetings starting at 4 pm

Please join us here today for the live blog of the Buffalo School Board meetings, starting at 4 p.m. with a special meeting to discuss the selection process for an interim superintendent. Given board member Carl Paladino's last missive about the incoming board majority's desire to select an interim "immediately," that conversation should be interesting.

The special meeting will be followed by a 5 p.m. Student Support Committee meeting and a 7 p.m. Educational Support Committee meeting.

Students will get a double take on Algebra Regents this year as new Common Core tests arrive

Students will take their first Regents exam aligned to the Common Core today, but some will have a chance at a do-over later this month.

Schools will administer the state's Common Core Algebra I Regents exam today. Schools also have the option of allowing students to take the traditional Algebra exam – Integrated Algebra – later this month. The higher of the two scores will be counted.

The Board of Regents earlier this year pushed back the year in which students will have to earn higher scores on the Common Core-aligned Regents exams. The Class of 2022 will be the first required to pass them at levels considered to show whether students are "college and career ready."

Some students in local elementary and middle schools will also take field exams during the next week and a half. The exams aren't used to assess student or school progress, but instead will be used to screen test questions for use on future exams.

Critics of the amount of standardized testing in local schools have expressed concern about the use of the field tests, and some school districts downstate have opted not to administer the field tests.

In Erie and Niagara counties, 236 schools are on the list to administer field exams at some point between June 2 and June 11. Most will give either a math or an English Language Arts exam in one grade level.

-- Denise Jewell Gee

Paladino's memo on how the incoming board will pick the next superintendent

As noted in today's story, members of the incoming Buffalo school board majority feel strongly that the search and interview process for an interim superintendent cannot begin soon enough. Board member Carl Paladino wrote the three-page memo below, with some input from other members of the board minority who will become the majority in July.

In his statement, Paladino trotted out his favorite, unflattering descriptions of district leadership -- "BPS has suffered from bad judgment, incompetence, equivocation, racism and corruption." While this language doesn't suit the diplomacy style of all members of the current board minority, there's broader agreement about the process the incoming majority would like to see on the selection of the district's next leader.

2014-15 Buffalo Public Schools calendar (print it now so you aren't waiting 'til Thanksgiving for a copy)

The Buffalo School Board approved the district's school calendar last week. It's posted below. The school year will run from Sept. 4 to June 25, with week-long breaks in December, February and April.

As previously noted on the School Zone blog, even though the board adopts the school calendar in May or early June, the district does not distribute a hard copy of the calendar to parents until late November/December. By then, the information published is already outdated by several months and half the school year is over.

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.

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.

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.

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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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 |