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School board moves to reduce public meetings

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The Buffalo school board voted last night during an acrimonious meeting to slash its monthly meetings schedule. That change begins next month.

The board has long had two full board meetings and two evenings of committee meetings each month. The meetings can run long into the night, with long discussions about very small items. An example on Wednesday night was the extended discussion of a $15,000 contract for videotaping meetings in the school system. 

According to Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash, the move will ease the workload of his administrators, who often spend many hours preparing in advance of meetings. Cash also believes the board often gets bogged down in minutiae, rather than looking at the bigger picture. 

"I've been here 16 months. I don't have any goals that you've set for me that that are clear and measurable and on the line so we can be held accountable," Cash told the board.

The meeting again exposed some of the tensions on the board. Board member Sharon Belton Cottman believes her fellow members, especially new members, require more training. That lack of preparation, she contends, causes meetings to drag unnecessarily.

"They do not even have the basic understanding of 'who's who' in the district and to sit back and expect that people who you don't even know their names, you don't even know their positions or what they do. To expect you to be in governance positions without knowing that is a major concern," Belton Cottman said.

The measure called for waiving second reading. That meant the proposal could be introduced last night and be immediately approved, without a requirement to wait until the next meeting for that second reading and probable public comment.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.