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The right impulse But School Board needs expert help in finding money to reinstate teachers

It's not the job of the Buffalo Board of Education to decide how to manage the district but it is the board's duty to put leaders in place who are equipped to do that job. It is in that spirit that the plan by two members to introduce a measure to reinstate the 104 teachers who were fired earlier this month should go forward -- with guidance from experts, not simply as perceived by members of the board.

Ralph R. Hernandez and Mary Ruth Kapsiak were on target when they said the district needs to find the money to restore positions that have a direct bearing on classrooms. That is especially important given that 13 of the city's schools, or about one-fourth, have been designated by the state as persistently lowest-achieving.

Meanwhile, the board-approved 2011-12 district budget included the teacher cuts, which come to roughly $5.8 million. To find the money, Hernandez and Kapsiak are eyeing the district's non-union, or exempt, central office staff, which has ballooned to 28 -- or doubled in size -- during Superintendent James A. Williams' six-year tenure.

But the board may not have enough information to make an intelligent decision as to whether that money could be drawn from cutting central office administrators and from its rainy day fund to cover the cost of salaries and benefits for the reinstated teachers. More study by reliable sources is needed before the board can reach a thoughtful conclusion. Here, again, the obvious course is to look outside the district for individuals with the training and experience to lead that effort.

Every aspect must be examined.

Board members have asked for an academic audit, and that must be accompanied by a fiscal audit to look at how all the streams of money are being used. And then the information must be shared with the control board and state education department.

It all goes back to the need for a fresh, outside perspective. Outside eyes should challenge everything that has been done and the culture that has produced such terrible results for Buffalo's school children.

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