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3 city school finalists all draw praise as 'unique' Dixon's rivals represent Philly, Baltimore areas

A former central office administrator from Philadelphia, a current central office administrator from Baltimore County, Md., and the interim superintendent in Buffalo are the finalists in the Queen City's search for its next superintendent.

The candidates were identified during Wednesday evening's Board of Education meeting: Pamela Brown, a former assistant superintendent for the Philadelphia schools; Edward Newsome Jr., an assistant superintendent in the Baltimore County schools; and Amber M. Dixon, who has been serving in the position on an interim basis through this school year.

"We have three qualified candidates. Each brings something unique to the table," said board President Louis J. Petrucci.

Dixon has something that neither of the other candidates has: experience working in the Buffalo Public Schools -- 21 years in the district, the first 10 as a teacher, and the rest as a central office administrator.

The other two finalists each has two things Dixon does not: a doctorate and experience working as a principal.

Brown, who has more than one Ivy League degree, has worked in larger districts in three states during more than 30 years in public education.

Newsome has worked in public education for 38 years and also run a private educational consulting firm in Maryland.

"We think we have three candidates that are equally prepared for the position -- otherwise, we would not have invited them to interview," said Barbara Seals Nevergold, an at-large board member.

Brown, 57, is a senior research and planning associate for the Center for Educational Leadership and Technology in Marlborough, Mass., according to information released by the Buffalo Public Schools.

Previously, she served as an assistant superintendent in charge of 16,000 students in 30 schools in Philadelphia, according to media reports. That district's total enrollment is more than five times the size of Buffalo's.

She joined the Philadelphia schools four years ago as a regional superintendent to oversee chronically low-performing schools. After a year, she was promoted to the district's No. 2 spot, interim chief academic officer. The following year, she was moved again to become an assistant superintendent.

Brown also has served as chief of staff in the Richmond, Va., schools, and as an elementary school principal in Charlotte, N.C., according to media reports.

Her academic credentials include a master's in education policy and management, as well as a doctorate, from Harvard University; a master's degree in educational administration from San Francisco State University; and a bachelor's in Spanish from Stanford University.

In the past couple of years, Brown has surfaced as a finalist for superintendent jobs in Joliet, Ill., and Youngstown, Ohio.

Newsome is an assistant superintendent for high schools in the Baltimore County Public Schools, according to information released by the Buffalo Public Schools.

He was appointed last year as an assistant superintendent for middle schools in the Baltimore Public Schools, a district about three times the size of Buffalo, according to various online accounts.

Prior to that, he spent five years as director of school performance in Montgomery County, Md.

Newsome also has served as an elementary school principal in Montgomery County and a high school principal in Prince George's County, Md.

He also is listed online as the president and CEO of Flight to Excellence Educational Consultants, a Maryland firm. Flight to Excellence offers a variety of services to districts, including leadership development, strategies for increasing parental involvement, and school improvement planning, according to its website.

He holds a doctorate in educational leadership; a master's degree in administration and supervision; and a bachelor's in early childhood education, according to his firm's website.

Dixon, 58, has served as Buffalo's interim superintendent since September 2011, when James A. Williams resigned.

She was a top adviser to Williams, who promoted her three times during his tenure in Buffalo. Before being appointed interim superintendent, she served as executive director of evaluation, accountability and project initiatives. In that role, she was the district's primary liaison with the state on various issues, from student test data to implementation of reform initiatives.

Her other central office positions included executive director of project initiatives, acting director of curriculum, and supervisor of schoolwide programs and accountability.

For a decade prior to becoming an administrator, Dixon worked as a math teacher in the district.

She holds a master's degree in math education from the University at Buffalo and a bachelor's in elementary education from Medaille College.

"I think they're all very viable candidates with very solid resumes," said Rosalyn L. Taylor, board vice president. "All of them have extensive experience in the area of student achievement."

The three candidates are scheduled to meet with district administrators and various stakeholder groups today, then interview with the School Board on Friday.

Newsome and Dixon will proceed with the scheduled events. Newsome will tour three schools today, including Blackman School 54 and City Honors.

But Brown was unable to come to Buffalo this week due to a family emergency, Petrucci said. She remains interested in the job and will reschedule at the earliest opportunity, he said.

The public is invited to meet Newsome and Dixon at a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. today at Waterfront Elementary, 95 Fourth St.