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Gregory D. Mott

As a Buffalo native and educator, Gregory D. Mott knows a thing or two about the city’s schools and the challenges facing young people. His personal experience and deep understanding of these issues is one of the things that has helped his school, Grabiarz School of Excellence, go from one of the worst in the district to one of the best.

“I have been there,” Mott said. “I know with self-motivation and high expectations, you can raise your status.”

Except for the district’s Discovery School, which performed better in reading, the percentage of Grabiarz students deemed proficient in both reading and math lagged behind only a few charter schools and those with special admissions criteria. And that success comes at a school where 94 percent of children qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and about 27 percent have disabilities.

Raised in a single-parent home on Buffalo’s East Side, Mott attended Buffalo Public Schools. By the time he was a freshman at Kensington High School, he had made one key choice – he wanted better for himself and his family.

After graduation from college, he started as a sub in the Buffalo schools. His first permanent job was as a part-time social studies teacher. Years away from a more stable post, he left the classroom for a full-time job as an attendance officer, working with some of the district’s most troubled students – those who were habitually truant. Over the years, the district moved him from building to building, oftentimes to calm brewing troubles, including racial tensions. His first principal job was at the district’s alternative high school.

After years of working with some of the district’s most at-risk students, Mott turned his attention to a more preventative approach – working at an elementary school.

“When you talk about students who were in the juvenile system and the criminal system, let’s reach them while they’re impressionable in their primary years,” Mott said. “I wanted to go back and put all my energy into reaching them earlier.”

– Tiffany Lankes