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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.

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

Live updates: Pamela Brown's news conference

Ken-Ton to name new superintendent Monday

By Joseph Popiolkowski

The Ken-Ton School Board has selected a successor to outgoing Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro, board President Bob Dana announced this morning.

The board has scheduled a special meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the district's administration building, 1500 Colvin Boulevard, to reveal the new superintendent's identity. Mondanaro announced in January that he would retire this summer from the district he has led since 2007 to raise his two grandchildren.

Mondanaro, 57, came to Ken-Ton in July 2007 from the much smaller LaFayette School District south of Syracuse where he also served as superintendent.

The new superintendent is expected to attend Monday's meeting, Dana said. The board in February hired the Warner Center at the University of Rochester as consultants for its superintendent search.

School spending: How much has tax revenue changed in your district?

Live blog: Buffalo School Board to vote on 2014-15 budget

Please join us for tonight's live blog of the Buffalo School Board. Click here for a link to the board agenda packet. The top agenda item tonight is the approval of the district's 2014-15 budget. You can find a link to the full budget here.

Tonight's meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, located at the intersection of East Ferry Street and Masten Avenue.

Ken-Ton issues statement on principal transfer

By Joseph Popiolkowski

Last night's Ken-Ton School Board meeting and budget hearing was as about exciting as you'd expect a budget hearing to be. That was, until four mothers spoke — sometimes tearfully — during the public comment portion and expressed their disappointment that Hamilton Elementary School Principal Michael Huff will be transferred to fill a vacancy at Hoover Elementary School.

Hamilton is slated to close in the 2016-17 school year along with Roosevelt Elementary and Kenmore Middle School as part of a restructuring. 

“He is the heart and soul of the school and the only person who can get the students through the difficult closing coming in the near future,” one mother said of Huff.

Perhaps due to the showing last night, the district this afternoon issued a statement about the transfer:

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District announces the transfer of Michael Huff to Hoover Elementary School beginning July 1, 2014. Huff, currently serving as principal at Hamilton Elementary, will fill the vacancy of Fran Paskowitz upon her retirement from Hoover Elementary School.

Hamilton Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary and Kenmore Middle School are slated to close in the 2016-17 school year as part of the redistricting plan that was unanimously approved by the Board of Education on April 1, 2014. The plan will potentially save the District $4.9 million in its first year and will allow the District to better serve the students and residents of the District.

“Mr. Michael Huff has seniority, therefore he will transfer to Hoover to fill the vacancy we will have from Mrs. Paskowitz’s retirement on June 30, 2014,” states Mark Mondanaro, superintendent of schools. “The District has a transitioning plan and we intend to make every effort for this process to be smooth for all – especially our students. Mr. Huff will be available to assist with the transition at Hamilton. We appreciate Mr. Huff’s years of service to the Hamilton Community. We are filling the two year Hamilton principal position internally and we will work with the faculty, students and parents to ensure a smooth transition process.”

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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 |