The survey that Mayor Masiello sent to city parents on Buffalo schools is an example of aggressive mayoral leadership in a city that desperately needs someone to step forward.
With controversies swirling around everything from the school district to the Peace Bridge to the site of a new convention center, this area has no shortage of problems. What it lacks are public officials with the courage to step up with solutions and the skill to galvanize support around those solutions.
Mayor Masiello has at least recognized the void when it comes to the school system and is trying to fill it.
Some of the questions obviously are designed to demonstrate support for his "neighborhood school concept," an ideal that everyone can rally around in theory but whose practical realities require far more study. And critics can justifiably note that his latest proposal -- a return to neighborhood schools -- has yet to be fleshed out in any meaningful way that takes it beyond the sound-bite stage.
But improving the school system -- and letting the public know that improvements are occurring -- has to start somewhere. And with the district not yet showing itself to be up to the challenge, leadership from the mayor's office can alert the public that someone is, indeed, trying to turn the schools around.
Having a mayor who recognizes the importance of a good public school system and who takes an active, high-profile interest in that system can only help Buffalo. Masiello's involvement will force the district to improve, if for no other reason than this kind of mayoral interest insures that the Board of Education's performance remains in the public spotlight.
Moreover, mayoral leadership can reassure parents, both those who might be thinking of leaving the city as well as any who might be thinking of moving in. Knowing that the mayor of Buffalo has made the district a priority is a signal to them and to businesses that the schools won't be allowed to founder.