Report finds local school districts need lessons in open government

May 1, 2019

Several local school districts are getting a failing grade for the poor way in which they communicate with the public.  


The grades are being handed out by the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government. President Paul Wolf says the group rated the six largest school districts in Erie County and the four largest in Niagara County.      

"Sadly, out of the ten school districts that we reviewed, only one received a passing grade and that was the Kenmore Town of Tonawanda District," Wolf said.
 
North Tonawanda, Williamsville, Lancaster, Buffalo, Niagara Wheatfield, Lockport, Starpoint, Niagara Falls and West Seneca all received an "F."  The grades are based on the availability of five items on each district's website. 

"Whether meeting agendas are being posted with the documents so that the public can see the same thing as school board members," Wolf said.

"Are minutes being posted timely? Are people allowed to speak at school board meetings before votes are taken? Whether executive sessions are being done properly and whether meetings are videotaped and posted online for the public to see," Wolf said.
    
According to Wolf, some of the items are not required by law, but he says they are all good open government practices.

"School districts spend a lot of tax money and I know people are interested in how their taxdollars are being spent," Wolf said. 

School board elections are coming up this month in districts across the region. Wolf hopes the report will be a part of the discussion.       

UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, the day after this article was published, Paul Wolf told WBFO, "after further review our scores for two school districts have changed, Niagara Wheatfield and Williamsville."

"Four out of ten districts received a passing score with Niagara Wheatfield the highest overall score. We previously reported that Buffalo had not posted meeting minutes since March 2018, which is incorrect. Buffalo also did an excellent job in that all of their executive sessions were done correctly."