September 3, 2008

Williams Sees System ‘on the Rise’

By Peter Simon

Buffalo School Superintendent James A. Williams launched the school year Tuesday morning with an upbeat speech outlining his reform initiatives and calling the city school system "a district on the rise and a district moving in the right direction."

In a "convocation message" broadcast on WNED-TV's "ThinkBright" channel, Williams lauded the district's academic, athletic and financial efforts since he became superintendent three years ago.

"We face many political, social and financial difficulties in educating children in an urban district," Williams said the day before classes begin. "The challenges are great, yet the critical investment in education will help the City of Buffalo grow on a social and economic level."

Williams cited these efforts:

* The opening this year of Olmsted High School at Kensington and the installation of interactive smart boards at 16 city schools.

* The approval last week of a new contract that provides raises to teacher's aides and teacher's assistants.

* A dramatic expansion of Advanced Placement courses -- from 16 to 146 -- over the last three years and the addition of classes in Latin and Mandarin Chinese.

* Expansion of the athletic program, including the addition of golf teams this year.

* The addition of 200 teachers over the last three years, following years of crippling layoffs and program cuts.

* Increases in pupil test scores on state assessment tests.

"I'm proud of the academic success and great strides we have made thanks to your hard work and dedication," he told administrators, teachers and parents."

Williams's eight-page speech made no mention of recent controversies at McKinley High School and Discovery School 67 or of a recently reported decline in the district's graduation rate.

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Originally published by NEWS STAFF REPORTER.

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