Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Buffalo Schools at the Crossroads_ Dr. Pamela Brown’s Legacy

The May 6th school board election established the Buffalo School Board’s New Majority Majority, which will take control and power on July 1, 2014.  But, of course the New Majority Majority began planning for the takeover long before the election.   During the electoral campaign, they telegraphed that one of their goals was to force the resignation or outright firing of the Superintendent, Dr. Pamela C. Brown.  For the better part of her two-year tenure Dr. Brown has been the subject of a coordinated campaign to undermine her position as Superintendent.  For example, the Buffalo News has waged a crusade to denigrate Dr. Brown, discredit her accomplishments, create public negative opinion and diminish her ability to achieve significant change in the District. 

Board member Carl Paladino built his 2013 election bid on a pledge to get rid of the Superintendent and the “Sisterhood” of Black Board members who championed the progress made under Dr. Brown’s tenure.  The New York State Education Department’s Commissioner, Dr. John King, appointed a “Distinguished Educator”, Dr. Judy Elliott, a month before Dr. Brown took office, ostensibly to aid the District.  Simultaneously during Dr. Brown’s superintendence he issued mandate after mandate, many unfunded, on the District.  These drained staff energies and resources and contributed to low morale.

And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg that Dr. Brown had to contend with.  The business community turned against her with such a vengeance that they secretly constructed a buyout plan that offered her a half-million dollars to leave the District.  When she vehemently refused the bribe, the Buffalo News chided her for not being prudent.   She should have taken the money and gotten out of Dodge!  And through it all, Buffalo’s Black community, the political, business, religious and service factions have remained silent.  Whether as a result of apathy, fear of retribution or “enlightened self-interest” remains to be seen.  The end result is that sadly, the African American community has failed to live up to the historic legacy of civil and social justice advocacy that undergirded it for the past two centuries.

The New Majority Majority has already begun to make its mark.  They have vowed to implement their pledge to terminate the Superintendent’s contract, even though she still has one year left on it.  They have posited an agenda that includes rapid “reform” of the school district in a supposed plan to “fix” it, retrench all the progress that they refuse to admit has taken place since Dr. Brown was hired and establish as many charter schools as they can create ASAP.

 An ultimate example of how “white privilege” is exercised can be seen in the “request” of incoming Board member Larry Quinn to be included now in the Board’s deliberations about the selection of a new Interim Superintendent.  Why, he asks, should Florence Johnson be sitting at the table making these decisions?  After all she won’t be there after July 1.  But, consider this; a Board member is a public officer, like the Mayor, a Common Council Member, an Erie County or New York State Legislator or the President of the United States.  You don’t get to make decisions as a sitting member of any of these bodies until you are sworn in!  Plain and simple!  But that answer doesn't seem to be sufficient.  Further, the new Board members haven’t attended any Board or Committee Meetings to date.  These are open meetings that one would think they would want to attend in order to get an understanding of the issues they will be dealing with once they are seated.

And then consider this, a current Board member, Mr. James Sampson, the presumptive President of the Board on July 1 and an incoming Board member, Mr. Larry Quinn were invited to meet with the Commissioner of Education, Dr. John King, when the sitting Board President, Dr. Barbara Nevergold,  was denied such an audience. What does this say about being open and transparent?  What changes will there be in the relationship between the Buffalo School Board and the State Education Department come July 1?  In addition, why didn’t this “adjustment” of the Buffalo Board/SED relationship take place earlier?  It was not a failure on the part of the past Board, as we tried.

But now, I realize that I digress!  This article was to be about the legacy of Dr. Pamela C. Brown.  So, let me conclude this piece (no doubt there will be more to come)for now and pick it up in a new article that adheres to that subject.

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