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Budgets, baccalaureate and more

Notes from the Buffalo Board of Education committee meeting on Wednesday:

-- The district hopes to adopt a budget for next year by May 11, a process that will be ongoing for the next several weeks.

Department heads are supposed to submit their budgets by the end of next week, Superintendent Kriner Cash told board members.

“I told them we’re going to build this budget from the ground up, because we’ve got to make cuts,” Cash said. “Hopefully, we’re going to find things we can take out of the budget that we don’t need.”

Cash spoke last week before a joint panel of the State Senate and Assembly in Albany, where he outlined his reform agenda and asked the state to fund it with an additional $40 million over the next three years.

One of the big-ticket items will be reducing class sizes in kindergarten through third grades. The district has several options, which administrators will share with the board during the budget process.

-- Cash and board members continued to search for a resolution to changing their public meeting schedule.

The current schedule includes a board meeting every week, with two meetings per month for general business and the other two for committee meetings, when board members discuss specific topics.

Cash is recommending two meetings a month: one board meeting and one workshop for the board to discuss specific items.

In fact, Edward A. Betz, general counsel for the Board of Education, told board members the format it operates under now was never formally adopted, so whatever the board eventually decides needs to be updated in its policies.

“The way we’re organized right now is more hindrance than a help,” Cash said. “I’m not saying we throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s keep it, refine it and streamline it.”

Only five board members were in attendance Wednesday – Sharon Belton-Cottman, Mary Ruth Kapsiak, Barbara Seals Nevergold, Larry Quinn and Theresa Harris-Tigg.

They asked Cash to schedule a meeting to discuss the public meeting schedule, so the full board can weigh in.

-- Susan Doyle, principal of Middle Early College, gave the board an update on the high school, which now shares space at Bennett High School.

Middle Early – started 13 years ago for the student academically in the “middle” – offers both a high school diploma and a tuition-free associate’s degree from Erie Community College in five years.

While Middle Early College is still associated with ECC for now, it also began partnering with SUNY Buffalo State.

Belton-Cottman asked if the district was considering expanding or replicating Middle Early. Cash said he wasn’t ready to commit to either, but said he was “impressed” with what was happening at the school.

--  City Honors Principal William Kresse gave a presentation about the school's International Baccalaureate program, which stresses higher standards and critical thinking.

After the presentation, Cash said he would like to see City Honors take in more students from Stanley M. Makowski Early Childhood Center. Makowski also has an International Baccalaureate program for students in pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade, but only one to four Makowski students get into City Honors each year, officials said.

“We’d love to see more Makowski students,” Kresse said.

“What’s holding it up?” Cash said.

-- The meeting included some lively back and forth between Cash and members of the board’s minority bloc, specifically Belton-Cottman and Harris-Tigg. Much of it revolved around Cash’s recommendation to change the board’s meeting schedule.

At one point during the meeting, Harris-Tigg mentioned that the board also needed to set aside time to discuss its evaluation of the superintendent, who has been on the job for six months.

“We should have a board evaluation, too,” Cash replied.

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