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James A. Williams got a glimpse of a Buffalo school superintendent's life Monday as he lunched with board members, chatted with students and heard an earful from parents worried about the plight of city schools.

Williams -- who could be named superintendent as early as Wednesday -- wrapped up his whirlwind tour of the city, which included a home visit with several parents.

The former school superintendent in Dayton, Ohio, continued to tout student achievement as his priority for Buffalo Public Schools.

"The superintendents before you have said the same thing you're saying, but then the money and the resources weren't there," said Sam Radford, a parent and local coordinator for the Alliance for Quality Education. "What I'm wondering is what you're going to do that they couldn't."

The entire community will have to help, Williams said, adding that he also will need help from lawmakers and parents to help fight for funding in Albany.

"We do that already," Radford said.

"Obviously you're not doing a good job," Williams said. "When you go to that election box, that's where the change must occur."

While a number of factors account for the decline of city schools, the only issue now is making sure the system does not stay on that downward path, said the Rev. Kinzer M. Pointer, a parent activist.

"It's our task that each of these children realize their potential, and we have not been doing that," said Pointer, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council. "We've been distracted by so many non-issues."

Williams' hour meeting with five parents hit on a variety of topics, ranging from charter schools to inequities in city schools to Buffalo's weather.

Pointer, Dianna Darby and Kathy Rua, all members of the District Parent Coordinating Council, said they liked what they heard from Williams.

"It seems like he has focus," Darby said. "Instead of being broad, he seems like he wants to be very specific in what he wants to do."

"The superintendent's focus is correct," Pointer said. "It has to be student achievement."

Williams seems composed and he handles himself well, Rua said.

"Does he seem like he has the capabilities to handle this job? Absolutely," Rua said.

Byron J. McIntyre, who hosted the visit in his Michigan Avenue home, said he liked Williams' vision but, like Radford, was skeptical because of the city's fiscal and political climate.

"I'm very impressed with him. I feel he is highly qualified and capable," said McIntyre, a Buffalo firefighter and unsuccessful Board of Education candidate last year. "But this is Buffalo, and things seem to operate differently in Buffalo."

"The reality is, he hasn't said anything that other superintendents before him haven't said," Radford said. "If he can't address the fiscal realities, what does the rest mean?"

After meeting with the parents, Williams toured Houghton Academy School 69 on Clinton Street, a school that has been cited for improvement in its test scores.


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