Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Buffalo Schools at the Crossroads: The New Majority Majority’s Strategic “Vision” Revisited

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the “Vision Statement” issued by new Buffalo School Board President James Sampson.  To recap, the timeline of the new Board’s progress is as follows:   (1) July 1, the new Board members were sworn in (including myself, Larry Quinn and Patricia Bowers-Pierce) and new Board officers were elected (2) July 2, Mr. Sampson emailed his five-page “Vision Statement”, which he claimed would “guide our discussions and decision making over the coming year” (3) July 2, I responded to Mr. Sampson’s email, as did Ms. Belton-Cottman, asking some pertinent questions about the origin of this statement and seeking clarification about the entire Board’s ability to have input and discussion about the proposals contained within this “draft” statement.  Mr. Sampson’s curt response was “Of course”, but we have yet to see any time established to discuss the “Vision” and several of its proposed actions have already been instituted.
Let’s just take the section entitled, “Interim Superintendent”, for example.  Although this section begins with “The Board should hire an interim Superintendent….” the Interim Superintendent, Donald Ogilvie was already hired by the 5 majority members of the Board, prior to the Board meeting of July 9th.  (4) On July 6, Mr. Sampson sent another email informing Board members of his intention to bring the appointment of Donald Ogilvie as Superintendent to the Board at its July 9th meeting.  The only thing that remained was to formally install him, over the objections of the four minority members, who weren’t given an opportunity to interview Mr. Ogilvie prior to his hiring.  The majority rammed through this appointment, ignoring the obvious violations of Board policy, marginalizing the minority Board members and dis-enfranching the constituents we represent.

The “Vision Statement” on the “Interim Superintendent” goes on to extol the qualities, experiences and expertise expected of this individual, including “buying into the BOE’s strategy and position with regard to moving the BPSD forward”; “Be influential within State Education Department”; “Be able to cut through the intrigues and various agendas of current administration officials bent on sabotaging reform efforts”, “have no stake in being name the permanent superintendent”.  The most revealing expectation for this individual, however, is contained in the final bullet point, which reads”

Understand how to create a more entrepreneurial organization which is critical for moving the BPSD away from being exclusively in the business of operating and managing K-12 public schools and more toward being in the business of providing high quality services to independent organizations that operate and manage public schools”. 

This statement raises grave concerns for me as the mission of the Buffalo Public School District is to ensure that every child receives a world class education that prepares them for college and careers.  Our business is to operate and manage K-12 public schools.    And who are these individual organizations that Mr. Sampson refers to?  He doesn't say but one can guess after reading the article in the July 25th edition of the Buffalo News.   So the Majority Majority’s proposal would use our children as commodities for sale.  The “Vision” designates the role of the school district as being the producer of “high quality services” that would be offered to these independent organizations so that they could “operate and manage” our schools?  I think it goes without saying that since these organizations would not provide these services without compensation; this means that we would also use public funds to pay for these “independent organizations” to run our schools. 

When did our business become to “create an entrepreneurial organization”?  Is this what you voted for last May?  I don’t remember anyone running on a platform to turn our schools into a business venture that we would pass on to “independent organizations”.

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