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Another Voice: Stable leadership is vital to improving education

By Paul G. Buchanan

This year’s Buffalo School Board election is critical to the education of our children and the continued renewal of Buffalo. Voters should elect candidates who support Superintendent Kriner Cash. This is the most important issue in the election; all other issues are a distant second. Buffalo has suffered through a revolving door of superintendents, at least seven in the past 13 years. Long-term stability in the superintendent’s chair is critical to any improvement in the education of our children.

Certainly there are a number of other issues to be debated and addressed; Common Core, student testing, teacher evaluation, parent involvement and finances, to name a few. However, there have always been and will continue to be issues to be debated in public education. It is the nature, and a strength, of our democratic system. But it must not deter us from first and foremost demanding a stable administration of the Buffalo Public School District.

Beyond that we must take a long-term strategic view of the school system. This will take leadership from the governor, education commissioner, Regents, Legislature, City of Buffalo, school district and community. We must transform Buffalo schools to a place of energy, innovation and successful leadership in American urban public education. We have seen this model play out with the emergence of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the transformation of the waterfront. Few could have predicted 15 years ago that national and international members of the biomedical sciences and business entrepreneurs would make Buffalo a destination. We can and must do the same in urban public education.

New York State leadership is essential, and we already have community components such as Say Yes to Education, colleges and a major university of teachers and education on which to grow. The Buffalo teachers need a new long-term contract that provides salaries to attract the best and brightest teachers. Contract rules need to be modernized to allow for flexibility in administration and unleash the full potential of the classroom teacher.

It is a travesty and disgrace to the community and all concerned that the last Buffalo teachers contract was implemented 15 years ago. School buildings must be allowed to become neighborhood anchors with after-hours community access.

We need to create a vision that looks to 2025 and beyond; to a day when a superintendent search is not about who would be willing to come to Buffalo, but about national and international leaders in urban education clamoring to be a part of our region’s schools, colleges and success.

Long-term stability in the superintendent’s leadership is critical to any educational success.

Paul G. Buchanan is a retired Family Court judge and former president of the Buffalo School Board.