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Focus on the children After botching decision on Williams, School Board must get down to work

Whatever or whoever influenced the Buffalo Board of Education to keep Superintendent James A. Williams on for another year dispensed advice that created an ego-stroking windfall of money for Williams, but was very bad for the children of the district.

The board, having made this mistake -- and it is no small mistake -- now needs to get past the money that has been wasted and get on to what is going to be done to help the children who are floundering under Williams' leadership.

More evidence of that floundering came Tuesday when the state Education Department released graduation figures for high schools. Buffalo's already-dismal graduation rate dipped another 6 percent, to 47.4 percent.

What is most frustrating is that the board had a ready-made solution on hand. A professional who has spent his life in education, who is admired here and in Albany and who wrote the program for fixing the district's nine worst schools -- Erie 1 BOCES Superintendent Donald A. Ogilvie -- was available to help.

The kind of convoluted thinking that must have gone into the decision to keep Williams and reject Ogilvie is beyond comprehension. Having handled this matter so badly, the board members now need to act to recover from their mistakes.

The obvious solution is Ogilvie, with the support of Regent Robert M. Bennett and new State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. Students can't afford to lose another year as the district waits for Williams to leave. A year is a long time in the education of a child.

The board must act now.

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