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School Board to meet today on Williams

The Buffalo Board of Education will meet today to consider setting in motion proceedings to terminate Superintendent James A. Williams' contract.

The board will discuss "no fault" termination procedures in Williams' contract and vote on whether to initiate them.

The provision requires the board to notify the superintendent of a tentative decision to terminate his contract and of a date on which it wants to meet with him in executive session to discuss its intent.

If, after the executive session, the board decided to terminate his contract, it would have to notify him in writing of the effective date of the termination. The board and superintendent also could negotiate an amicable separation.

If terminated, Williams would be entitled to six months' pay, or $110,000, along with a benefits package.

Williams announced early this month that he would retire next June. Some board members initially said the one-year plan would provide the district stability and allow time to find a successor.

But with high student absenteeism, low graduation rates and underperforming schools, the idea of cutting ties sooner has persisted.

"What I'm hearing from the board is, having the discussion now makes much more sense than waiting a year," said Ralph R. Hernandez, board president, who called the special meeting at noon today.

Hernandez said he had been notified that at least five board members would attend today's meeting, creating a quorum.

A meeting on that topic had been scheduled for last week but was called off.

Asked whether he expected the board would have enough votes to move forward on the contract clause, Hernandez said, "We'll have to see what happens at noon [today]."

Hernandez also feels confident the board could find an able interim superintendent if Williams leaves early.

"There are people locally, in the city and county, who would be very effective, with good track records," he said.

Williams announced his retirement shortly after an unsatisfactory annual evaluation by the Board of Education. But he said the evaluation did not influence his decision.