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Board decides not to take vote on Dixon offer

The Buffalo School Board on Wednesday night met behind closed doors for an hour and a half, then briefly acknowledged that it would not take a vote on whether to offer interim Superintendent Amber M. Dixon a two-year contract.

Jason McCarthy, who represents the North District, had sent a letter to board President Louis J. Petrucci this week saying he would introduce a motion to authorize Petrucci to negotiate such a contract, and asking if he would get a second on the motion. A second is needed to bring the matter to a vote.

But McCarthy did not make such a motion.

After the board emerged from its executive session, McCarthy asked Petrucci: "Do you have an answer to my correspondence from earlier?"

Petrucci initially gave him a quizzical look, then gave an answer.

"This week, Mr. McCarthy sent me a letter. It was an internal document that was meant for board discussion. It somehow made its way into the press. The point was that we've had some discussion about this over the last week," Petrucci said.

The will of the board "seems to be to maintain fidelity to the process we agreed upon," to do a superintendent search, he added. "To make sure that whomever we select is the best candidate possible. We're all highly supportive of Ms. Dixon. We, as the board, decided we would continue on one vein, and we will continue in that vein."

Also on Wednesday, more than 20 residents lambasted the School Board for what many of them said was a lack of timely progress in revising the district's suspension policy.

For several weeks, a growing contingent has been speaking at board meetings, urging an end to out-of-school suspensions for nonviolent offenses.

This week, many of the speakers grew impatient and angry with the board for what they said was its inaction in the 19 months since Lafayette High School student Jawaan Daniels was shot at a bus stop after he was suspended from school and sent home in the middle of the day.

"This is a civil rights and a racial justice issue, and you board members need to treat it as one," said Ina Ferguson Downing, a grandparent in the city. "If a child had got killed in the suburbs, something instantly would have been done. I don't understand why the City of Buffalo has not put something in place."

Dixon told the audience that district officials would present their recommendations on a policy revision at the committee meeting next Wednesday.

"Is there a timeline for when we'll have a decision made?" Jim Anderson asked from his seat in the audience.

"It doesn't work that way," Petrucci told him.

Several students this week joined the list of adults who have been addressing the board about suspensions over the last several weeks.

Julian Gonzalez, a student at School 3, said some students in his class have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and some teachers are not able to effectively handle them, so those students end up getting sent to detention or suspended.

"A lot of kids get suspended and put out on the street," Julian said. "I've seen it firsthand that teachers do not want their kids in school. A lot of teachers despise kids, despise certain kinds of kids."

One speaker, Emilio Fuentes, said he attended all four hearings on suspensions. The problems that were articulated, he said, were much larger than just suspensions. He urged board members to hold meetings with parents in each of the six districts in Buffalo.