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Mum's the word

The federal government gave State Ed until July 31 -- which presumably translated into Aug. 1, seeing as July 31 fell on a Sunday -- to decide which persistently lowest-achieving schools would be awarded school improvement grants.

That deadline came and went, and nobody seems to be in much of a hurry to let the public know what's going on.

When I asked State Ed spokesman Jonathan Burman whether Buffalo's PLA schools had been awarded the up to $2 million a year in grant funds, he told me: "We expect to make an announcement about SIG grants later this week."

Why not make that information public now? After all, these schools have just over a month before students start showing up for classes in September. At this point, every day counts.

But State Ed is not alone in its less than burning desire to unveil public information to the public.

When Buffalo Board of Ed President Lou Petrucci joined me last week for a live chat, a reader asked how Lafayette High School had spent the $300,000 it got in planning funds to turn the school around.

Petrucci didn't know the answer, but promised to get one and let me know, so that I could pass it along to all of you. He followed through.

Here's the full response he got via e-mail from Associate Superintendent Debra Sykes:

The ERN planning funds ended June 30. The initial plan for Lafayette, based on the JIT report, was to close the school therefore all of their planning funds were not expended. A new Literacy plan and after school ELA program were created using ARRA funds instead of the ERN planning funds.  

The other two schools, Burgard and Riverside utilized their funds to begin the transformation process.

So it seems what we can take away from that is that the district spent something less than the $300,000 it got for Lafayette. But we still have no idea how much it spent, or on what.

Coincidentally, about two weeks ago, I submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to the district, seeking a detailed accounting of exactly what it spent the planning grant money on at Lafayette, Burgard and Riverside.

I got the boilerplate response back from the district, saying they are "researching your request and will be in contact with you, on or before twenty business days from the date of this letter, to discuss any schedule concerns or clarification that might be required, or to provide the records you have requested."

Clearly, the Buffalo Public Schools will have to tell me how that money was spent.

But apparently they, like State Ed, are not in much of a hurry for the public to have quick access to public information.

Kind of makes you wonder why.

- Mary Pasciak

E-mail me at mpasciak@buffnews.com or follow me on Follow  SchoolZoneBlog on Twitter Twitter. Check out the Buffalo News' education page at www.buffalonews.com/schools.

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