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School Board Names Finalist for Superintendent's Position

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Board of Education has released the name of the finalist for its schools superintendent position. He is Dr. James Williams, who spent eight years as superintendent of Dayton Public Schools.

The identity of the leading candidate for Buffalo Schools superintendent was released Thursday, a day after the school board named him its top candidate.

Williams began his career as a teacher in Washington city schools. He moved through the ranks from teacher, to guidance counselor and then principal. From there, Williams went Dayton, where he served in deputy roles before becoming Schools Superintendent in 1991. Most recently, he was working in the private sector for a company that manages alternative schools for teens.

School Board President Florence Johnson says the next step is examining his references.

"We still have some additional information to garner about the candidate," Johnson said. "But at this point, we're very excited about the possibility of having Dr. Williams come to Buffalo."

Williams is given credit for turning around a troubled high school in Washington. But his eight years in Dayton were filled with controversy. Williams was involved in a consulting fee scandal with the education dean of Wright University. He survived the scandal. But Williams, an African-American, accused the state auditor investigating the controversy of having racial motivations. Williams also dealt with a divisive 16-day teachers strike in 1993.

Yet, Williams was also awarded the nation's highest urban education leadership honor during his time in Dayton. It's that urban experience that Buffalo At-Large Board Member Christopher Jacobs said was most impressive...

"I think many of us felt that through the way he answered our questions we learned something in the interview," Jacobs said. "He really understands the systemic changes that are needed to really impact the children."

Once the reference report is complete, Board President Johnson said contract talks will begin. She would not provide a timetable for finalizing an agreement.

Johnson also said a decision will be made later on whether Williams will be made available for questioning at a public meeting.