High-ranking Buffalo Public Schools administrator Will Keresztes was named interim superintendent Monday, reflecting the board’s confidence in his ability to ease the district through the immediate transition as Pamela Brown departs.
But Keresztes, the district’s chief of student support services, has had some bumps on the road to the interim post. One was the failed Corrective Action Plan he developed last year to deal with 2,200 transfer requests from parents who wanted their kids out of habitually failing schools.
The plan has numerous components, including a review of the district’s criteria-based schools to broaden admission and the opening of more charter schools. But though the overall plan was approved by the state Education Department last November, it has since collapsed; the school district has had problems with implementation and getting various components approved.
Some 1,200 students whose parents requested transfers to schools in good standing this year saw those requests denied because the district could not create enough seats in good schools. That has left parents frustrated and angry, and it forced the state to intervene.
Further back, in 2009, Keresztes was cleared by an ethics commission of an allegation that he forced a change in the City Honors grading system that resulted in national recognition for his daughter.
A report from City Honors Principal William A. Kresse alleged that Keresztes pushed successfully for the school to return to a previous grading system that produced higher grade-point averages for some students, including his daughter, who then qualified for a national Hispanic Recognition Award from the College Board.
But the ethics board ruled that the grade change “simply corrected an admitted mistake in arithmetic” and was not related to the larger issue of schoolwide grading policy. In addition, the report said, the grade change “did not yield any material benefit to the student or her parents.”
Keresztes was also suspended for 30 days in 2004 in a cheating scandal when an investigation found that a teacher at Highgate Heights Elementary School saw two questions on an eighth-grade state assessment test that the students had not been prepared for and wrote on the board the math calculations needed to answer the questions.
Keresztes was principal of the school at the time. He was in meetings on the morning the test was given and was not in any of the classrooms where it was administered that day. Though teachers said Keresztes did not encourage them to cheat, he was still suspended as head of the school.
“I voluntarily accepted a 30-day dock in pay,” Keresztes previously said of the incident. “My superiors were proud of how I handled this and how I led my school through a tough crisis.”
Keresztes has had successes as an administrator. Most notably, in April 2013, the Board of Education unanimously approved a new code of conduct he helped develop. Under the new rules, students no longer are suspended for nonviolent disciplinary problems such as truancy, cheating, cutting class, running in halls, smoking and dress code violations.
In these and many other cases, punishment is taking a back seat to intervention strategies such as seating changes, written apologies, parental notification, peer mentoring and conflict resolution.
Keresztes has been in his current position since 2007. Before that, he was principal of Highgate Heights from 1999 to 2007, and he was an assistant principal at North Park Academy in 1998.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1985 from Concordia College and a master’s in educational administration from the University of Houston in 1993. He got his doctorate in educational leadership from D’Youville College in 2011.