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Amid the acrimony and public battles that marked the two-year tenure of Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown, the most important issue often faded into the background: The Buffalo Public Schools are failing too many of the city’s 34,000 students.

The health of the Buffalo schools isn’t just a city concern. The troubled city schools rob regional businesses of the trained labor they need to grow. It imposes costs on the whole area: assistance, incarceration, remedial education. It deprives retailers of the middle-class consumers they need to thrive. It robs the city – the heart of any metropolitan area – of families as they choose to raise their children in suburbs with better schools.

Most important is the crushing human cost. Buffalo is the fourth-poorest city in the United States. Education remains the best ticket out of poverty. Every year that the Buffalo schools flounder, the odds increase that another generation will lose.

Does it have to be that way?

Starting today and continuing the next few months, education reporters Sandra Tan, Deidre Williams and Tiffany Lankes and investigative reporter Mary Pasciak are traveling the country to write about urban school systems that have found answers. So much of journalism shines a spotlight on problems. Their stories will illuminate solutions: How can we fix Buffalo’s schools?

The four reporters have decades of experience. Tan has been at The News for 14 years and has reported about education here and in Virginia. Williams has been at The News for 15 years and covered Buffalo for a decade before moving to the education beat last year. Lankes, an Amherst native, covered education for more than decade in Florida and Rochester before joining The News last year. Pasciak, a Town of Tonawanda native, has been at The News for 16 years, half of that time covering education.

Leading the effort are Urban Affairs Editor Rod Watson and Deputy Managing Editor Stan Evans. You may know Watson from his column every Thursday on the front of the City & Region section, but he also edits a group of reporters writing about city issues. Evans is responsible for all of The News’ local news coverage. Both are News veterans.

In today’s installment, Lankes and photographer Robert Kirkham report about Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx, an all-male school for at-risk kids. Buffalo has one of the nation’s worst high school graduation rates for young black men. At Eagle Academy, nearly three-quarters of the young black men graduate.

Through the next few months, News reporters will take readers inside other urban schools that succeed. As you read the stories, join the conversation on buffalonews.com.

email: editor@buffnews.com