Sunday, November 23, 2014

Buffalo Schools at the Crossroads: A Tale of Two Resolutions

November 17, 2014

In the past week there were two significant Resolutions regarding the Buffalo Public Schools that many of you are probably not aware of, since the Buffalo News gave little coverage to one and completely ignored the other.  So, let’s talk about the first Resolution that did receive some coverage as it represented a positive development in community support for one of our “out of time” schools, Lafayette High School.

In a stellar show of solidarity and support for Lafayette students, faculty, staff and families, the Buffalo Common Council, on November 12th, voted unanimously on a Resolution, which reads in part:
“Therefore, Be It Resolved: That the Common Council seeks support from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Education Department Commissioner John B. King Jr. to provide State Improvement Grant Funds for Lafayette High School, so that the funds deliver an equitable school turnaround for the school, students, and community. In addition, NYSED should provide translations of New York State Regents Examinations and Bilingual Glossaries as afforded to other language groups in the state, as well as extending waivers for schools designed for adolescent English Language Learners, which exist in New York City.”

In addition to the Governor and the Commissioner of NYS Education, the New York State Board of Regents also received a copy of the Resolution.  It remains to be seen as to the impact of this show of support for Lafayette.  But it’s a great sign of local support for keeping local control of the school.  I’ll provide an update as soon as I receive it.

The second Resolution was initiated, on November 10th, by the four minority members of the Board, Dr. Harris-Tigg, Mrs. Belton Cottman, Mrs. Kapsiak and this author.  The resolution calls on the Board for transparency and openness in the case of the alleged conflict of interest of Carl Paladino as it relates to his votes on Charter School decisions.  The specific question relates to a settlement with the Charter School for Applied Technologies.  You may recall that Mr. Paladino purchased the former Holy Angels School earlier this year.   Beginning in September the Charter School for Applied Technologies located a middle school in this building.  As a result of his ownership of this building, the minority members of the Board contend that Mr. Paladino has a conflict of interest and therefore should not have voted on this agreement.  The Board received a legal opinion on this matter and the Resolution demands that the opinion be made public.  The resolution concluded with the resolve that:

“Therefore, the sponsors of this Resolution request that the Board vote to make public the legal opinion provided by Mr. Kristoff regarding the issue of conflict of interest and Mr. Paladino and also stay further action to execute the settlement agreement with the Charter School for Applied Technologies until the question of conflict of interest is resolved.”

Needless to say, this Resolution created quite a stir with the majority Board members.  They initiated a number of actions to prevent it from coming to the Board meeting on November 19th for a formal vote.  In fact, they circumvented the Resolution by having Mr. Paladino give an interview to the Buffalo News during which the confidential and privileged details of the attorney’s opinion were disclosed to the press.  This is another instance in which this group of Board members demonstrates their support of a double standard.  Their actions have evaded and ignored the Board’s obligation to maintain confidential information that was received in executive session.  Their goal is to make discussion and presentation of this Resolution moot.  However, the minority members of the Board will exercise our right and responsibility to bring this Resolution to the table for a vote.  As with the other Resolution, I’ll update you on the outcome.

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