I’ve written on several occasions about the strategic messaging of the Buffalo News regarding former Superintendent Pamela C. Brown and the minority members of the Board of Education. Their stories have been consistently negative and biased or have purposely omitted information that might have given readers a more balanced view of the Superintendent and Board members, particularly the significant student outcomes achieved during her tenure and the role of the majority members in undermining Dr. Brown. But I have to admit that there are stories that even the Buffalo News cannot manipulate to hide their veracity. Some stuff you just cannot make up. I offer the following comments by New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King during a recent interview. Over the past two years Dr. King has used his regulatory powers to issue numerous mandates and compliance orders to the District.
Dr. King made a surprise visit (none of the minority Board members knew he was coming) to Buffalo on September 18th. As he normally does, he met with the News’ education reporter. His remarks about the School District, three months after Dr. Brown’s departure, were reported in an article entitled “State is giving School Board more time to enact reform: Education Chief optimistic on new majority’s agenda” and are strikingly candid about the Commissioner’s acceptance and support of the New Majority faction of the Buffalo Board of Education to the exclusion of the minority members.
Specifically, Dr. King:
· Credited the new majority for making amends with the State (especially since current Board President James Sampson and At-Large Member Larry Quinn went to Albany for a secret meeting with the Commissioner before the new majority took office; they claim no deals were made, but it’s obvious that the Commissioner and the Board members reached some agreement; perhaps about the selection of the Interim Superintendent as noted in the article)
· Commended the new majority for hiring Don Ogilvie as Interim Superintendent; the article acknowledged that Mr. Ogilvie is a mentor of the Commissioner
· Approves of the new majority’s philosophy on educational reform because it aligns with the Commissioner’s own philosophy
· Is “more optimistic than at any other time” about the future of the District (under the leadership of the new majority and Mr. Ogilvie)
· “Championed” the new majority’s creation of a “Vision Statement”, even though that statement was created without the knowledge, involvement or input of the four minority members
· Ignoring this obvious exclusion of a significant part of the Board, Dr. King stated that the task of the new majority is to “transfer their vision statement into some concrete plans”
As if the foregoing wasn’t enough to paint a portrait of the bias of the Commissioner of State Education in favor of a Board faction comprised of only the majority members, the Commissioner concluded his interview with the most outrageous and revealing statement of his dismissive attitude toward the African American women minority members of the Board by saying:
“I’ve been at the department for five years,” King said. “Up until three months ago, you would regularly have members of the board majority or the superintendent saying, essentially, that the state was picking on the district to expect better outcomes. So now you have the board leadership and the district leadership saying that ‘We believe that schools can be the difference for kids. We believe that schools matter. We believe that poverty doesn't determine outcomes, that we can overcome the obstacles that poverty creates if we improve schools.’”
Like I said, you just can’t make this stuff up!