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Second "Buffalo Conversation" Explores Education

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The future of public education in Buffalo and Erie County will be the topic Wednesday night at the second Buffalo Conversation.

Civic activist Kevin Gaughan says public hearings and forums very often discourage the very input they're designed to solicit. He says people tend to walk away, frustrated by the registration process, the time limits, or the lack of meaningful dialogue.

That's why Gaughan initiated the Buffalo Conversation series. The forum is designed to encourage civic involvement on crucial public issues. And that's just what happened at the first one in June. More than 1,700 people showed up to offer their thoughts on the city's fiscal woes. Gaughan says that was good. But he says this conversation will go further.

"When we met the first time, there was a great deal of public frustration. We vented quite a bit," Gaughan said. "Now we're asking citizens to roll up their sleaves."

Gaughan says there will be plenty of help to share the work load. More than 150 school officials from the region's 29 school districts will be on hand. There will also be a panel of experts from outside the region. They'll share their experiences and ideas on how education can be improved through greater cooperation. And citizens will be asked to share theirs. Gaughan says it will be democracy in action.

"We're going to sit them in the round, sort of convention style, with signs on poles designating each district," Gaughan explained. "They'll surround the panel and citizens will surround them. This won't be a group of experts on a stage. Everyone is going to be sitting next to each other, which is conducive to conversation and the exchange of ideas."

And, most importantly, Gaughan says everyone will be heard. The forum is free and open to the public. It begins Wednesday night at 7:00 at Buffalo State College's Houston gymnasium.

But Gaughan says they are not leaving the building until everyone who wants to speak has a chance to speak.