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Catching up with former Buffalo Superintendent James Williams

Williams hasn’t been back to the city since he was forced out of the district back in 2011. As noted in today’s story, though Williams wore out his welcome after six years, in retrospect, it seems he served an eternity as the district’s top leader in light of the revolving door of four interim and permanent superintendents who have come and gone since then.

Now living in Washington, D.C., Williams said he’s learning to enjoy retirement, advising some software creators and attempting to write a book. He hasn’t gone out of his way to keep tabs on Buffalo city school news since left, but he knows a little about the superintendent search going on now – mostly because he’s been getting calls about it from prospective candidates.

He said he’s advised prospective superintendent candidates who’ve asked him for advice that they can expect challenges.

“One thing you have to be prepared for is putting a staff together,” he said. “You’re not going to have a lot of pickings to get people to move to Buffalo.”

He also told them they can’t have thin skins or be unwilling to face political minefields.

“The three people I talked to are capable of doing the job if they can navigate the politics,” he said.

Finally, while he’s tried to dissuade candidates who’ve called him, one thing he hasn’t done is talk down the city. Out-of-state residents aren’t sure they want to live in Buffalo, given its cold-weather reputation.

“I tell people it’s a beautiful, beautiful city,” he said. People don’t understand that. And there are lovely people in Buffalo.”

 Finally, Williams said he's curious to visit Buffalo and see how some of his schools turned out now that the Joint Schools Reconstruction Project is completed. But, he said, he won't return without an invitation.

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