Buffalo Public School Superintendent James Williams
BUFFALO, NY - Dr. James Williams says he will retire as Superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools next year, June 30th, 2012.
His reason for leaving: he's approaching 70 years old and wants to spend more time with his family. But it comes after another announcement on Wednesday.
Williams said he received a "competent" rating or three out of five on his evaluation from the school board. That's down from last year's "very competent" rating.
Williams says that evaluation had nothing to do with his decision to retire. Nor was it the calls for change at a rally last month outside city hall where people demanded higher graduation rates and better plans for low performing schools.
"Isn't it ironic that now you choose to retire in a year?" 2 On Your Side's Josh Boose asked Williams.
"For the past year, internally with my staff, I've been talking to them about retirement," Williams said.
"In the evaluation, did you say to the superintendent; 'because it was lower than last year we want you to retire'?" Boose asked Buffalo School Board Member Chris Jacobs.
"I'll just say the way the evaluation went lead into discussion as last year and the year before and previous years went into contract renewals and extensions," Jacobs replied. "Obviously there was a correlation between the way the evaluation went and the outcome we have today."
The president of the school board says the search for Williams' replacement will begin later this month. It's a strategy meant to make the transition process as smooth as possible.
"The last thing we need is to be jumping around from superintendent to superintendent or looking around or having an interim superintendent," said board president Ralph Hernandez.
Last year, Williams signed a three year contract to stay in Buffalo through 2014. Hernandez says Williams will get this year's and next year's salary of $220,000 but nothing more. If he was fired before the end of his contract he would have gotten $110,000. That's half a year's salary in severance.
Dr. Williams released this statement following his announcement to the board:
I want to voice my appreciation to the people of Buffalo who are devoting themselves to bettering the Buffalo Public Schools and putting Buffalo's future - its children - first.
Choosing a life-long career in education is more than just a job. It's a passion that teachers, principals and administrators feel in their bones.
It's a commitment to doing everything we can to help shape the character and life of a student and give them the tools they need to lead a happy and purposeful life.
For me personally, it is a career that I have been blessed with for 40 plus years. And I am proud to have had the opportunity to carry forth the vision and mission of New York State's second largest school district.
Tonight I am officially announcing my retirement as Superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools effective June 30, 2012.
This is an historic time for the Buffalo Public Schools and children of our community. There are tremendous challenges ahead and great opportunities.
I pledge to use my last year to assist with the system's transformation maintaining a high level of dedication to the Buffalo Public Schools and the children in it
I commit to do all I can to ensure we keep our high performing schools on track, work to turnaround those that need our help the most and make sure we get all the state and federal funding we can for each and every student.
We will hold our ground and push forward to bring graduation rates up, improve curriculum, and prepare students for life beyond high school, whether in a trade or at college.
I'm giving notice, not giving up; and I look forward in helping to secure my successor before I leave Buffalo, if the board wishes.
We have made a difference.
We are completing $1.4 Billion in school reconstruction--one of the city's largest economic development projects in its history.
We have expanded our AP classes from 16 to as many as 144.
We established the Buffalo Public Schools Foundation enabling us to maintain and grow our music, arts and sports programs for our students. These programs would have otherwise been cut for budget reasons.
We continue to have one of the Top 10 ranked high schools in the nation.
We opened up an international world for our students through our Mandarin Chinese language program.
We achieved significant growth in our math and ELA scores for five years in a row.
We've doubled our investment in athletics to $2.5 million.
We achieved a fiscal turnaround for the system, and the New York State Department of Education in 2009 viewed the Buffalo Schools as a statewide model for academic improvement.
Education is a family affair. In order for our schools to be successful, I'm asking all parents to recommit themselves to their son's and daughter's education. Education is the answer. And your support of their academic journey is critical to their future success.
I would like to personally thank the Board of Education for your confidence over the years.
I would like to recognize the outstanding service of our principals, teachers and all of our system's employees who work in one of our schools.
I would like to thank my team for their hard work and commitment. Education is not a job for the weak and timid. It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to work through the layers of an educational system. For all of those extra hours and time away from your own families, I thank you.
I would also like to acknowledge the tremendous relationships we have with our community's institutions of higher education. We have been able to provide a better future for many of our students because of your commitment.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of our friends and benefactors in the business community who invested in public education with their belief and their dollars, but especially Bob Wilmers and M&T Bank, Bob Rich and Rich Products and Paul Snyder and Snyder Corp. for their on-going friendship and dedication to the children of Buffalo.
In closing, there is talent and brilliance in every student. It is our duty - to find the way - to help them all to shine.