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OFFER ENABLES CITY TO SEEK TOP-NOTCH SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT

The Buffalo Board of Education is positioned to bring the best possible superintendent to Buffalo. The search process, as well as the offer of M&T Bank President Robert Wilmers to help finance the process and subsidize the salary of the new chief, has generated much discussion around the community. And well it should. This city cares deeply about its children.

The Board of Education also cares deeply for our children. It is for that reason that we took such great care in examining all of the possible ramifications of Wilmers' offer before agreeing, unanimously, that it was right for students.

We received both verbal and written assurance from Wilmers that he is interested only in helping bring the best possible candidate to Buffalo and that this person would be accountable only to the board and the state commissioner of education.

Skeptics need only look at what M&T Bank has done at School 68 over the last decade. The record speaks for itself. Wilmers has tremendous credibility not because of his money, but because of what he has done to help kids. We are very appreciative of his offer and his sincere commitment to the children in Buffalo.

Too often we have had to settle for less than what is needed and less than what is deserved by our children: an inadequate state funding formula for education, a punitively flawed funding mechanism for charter schools, a growing list of under-funded mandates from state and federal governments and a city that is too poor to adequately support its schools.

To know that Buffalo can enter into the market in its search for a new school leader without financial restriction is certainly a refreshing position to be in. Our students will be the ultimate benefactors.

Money is not the only factor that will draw a top leader to our city.

Buffalo should be attractive to candidates even without the extra money. We are well positioned with a reform initiative that has been applauded by the Council of Great City Schools. We have exceptional teachers, academic professionals and support staff, whose efforts have resulted in notable academic gains despite resource limitations and a control board-imposed wage freeze. And we live in an outstanding area with world-class natural resources, entertainment, arts and culture and diversity.

Our interim superintendent is doing a tremendous job of keeping the ship pointed in the right direction until the new person gets here.

No one expects that this search will produce some superhuman person who will instantly work magic. We do expect to attract the interest of some of the brightest, most accomplished leaders available to come in to what we believe is a challenging, though not unfavorable, situation and help us reach the next level.

Florence Johnson is president of the Buffalo Board of Education.