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Storm clouds forming Superintendent needs to join, not fight, the effort to save the city's schools

There's a storm on the horizon and it's made up of parents from across the City of Buffalo fed up with a list of excuses as to why their children are not getting a quality education.

Why, indeed; and yet the superintendent remains hostile to those asking, phoning leaders to let them know how unhappy he is at their attempts to bring attention to a broken educational system.

Time is running out.

The No. 2 person in the state Education Department traveled to Buffalo last week to get a handle on how the school district is going to deal with nine of the city's most troubled schools. The final plans are due May 9 but, incredibly, Superintendent James A. Williams skipped the meeting that drew 25 people, including Senior Deputy Education Commissioner John King Jr.

The superintendent isn't just missing critical meetings. He's missing the point. Results count, and so do accountability and transparency.

Hence, the storm cloud is forming. The District Parent Coordinating Council, composed of parent representatives from every school in the city, voted unanimously to call a meeting May 3 of local and state decision makers to discuss ways to fix the structural problems in the Buffalo schools. If they don't see any results from the meeting, the group has promised to stage protests until state and local officials begin putting together plans for immediate changes. One protest would keep children home from school on May 16.

The Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, during his Easter service in Kleinhans Music Hall, urged the 3,000 people in the audience to attend the May 3 meeting and, if that doesn't help the situation, join the school boycott. Pridgen is a Common Council member and former School Board member.

All hands are on deck for the meeting: the mayor, Common Council members, state officials, the local representative on the Board of Regents. Everyone, it seems, except for Williams. He called parent leaders to let them know he was unhappy. In fact, according to the parent group's vice president, Williams was "extremely upset."

So are the rest of us, except rather than getting upset at involved parents, we're upset with Williams and the dysfunctional school system providing a subpar education to students.

Meantime, Williams is busy placing blame. On Albany. On the educational system he says is set up to fail minority students. On everyone, it seems, but himself and the toxic environment he has created through fear and intimidation -- of teachers who may question his authority, of School Board members with the temerity to ask more questions, of media at whom he hurls baseless accusations and, ultimately, at the very students he's supposed to serve.

We're uncomfortable calling for a boycott, but the fact that the District Parent Coordinating Council would make such a threat is strong evidence that the situation is extreme.

The parent group is taking action for quality education and improved outcomes, and that's something to celebrate and support. Unless you're Williams.

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