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Buffalo schools achieve turnabout fiscal rating

In 2000, a national urban education group issued a sharply critical report on the Buffalo Public Schools and recommended 233 reforms, including 37 in the area of finance.

After a follow-up visit more than a year later, the Council of Great City Schools said the district's finance unit was "among the slowest to embrace and lead change" and jeopardized reforms in other areas.

Now, after a three-year review, that same group has identified Buffalo's schools as "a top performer" in the area of financial management.

The council is "particularly excited" about that finding in light of the problems it identified earlier, the executive director of the Washington, D. C., organization said in a letter to Superintendent James A. Williams.

"We remember a time when the school district struggled on this front, so we are especially gratified at the outstanding progress," Michael Casserly wrote. "We hope that other districts will strive to achieve similar results."

The most recent review focused on a series of financial efficiency measures and examined budgeting, revenue flow, expenditures, internal controls and auditing.

Gary Crosby, hired by the school district in 2004 as chief financial officer, welcomed the designation but said more improvement is needed.

"This recognition is gratifying, but we have much more work ahead of us," said Crosby, who later was given the additional duties of chief operating officer. "We have gone from mediocre to good in terms of our financial systems, processes and reporting capabilities. Now we are focused on going from good to great."

A case study of Buffalo's improvement will be presented at the Council of Great City Schools' annual meeting of chief financial officers in Baltimore next month, Casserly said.

email: psimon@buffnews.com

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