Last July, shortly after the new Board majority took office, they issued a Vision Statement that outlined “their” direction for the School District. They developed this plan without the knowledge, let alone input of the minority members of the Board, parents or other community stakeholders. They quickly followed this publication with the appointment of an Interim Superintendent. They recruited, interviewed and effectively hired Mr. Donald Ogilvie, again without the knowledge, involvement or consensus of the four minority Board members or engagement of parents and the community. When the minority Board members vociferously opposed this illegal action, we were variously depicted as “whiners”, players of the “race card”, “sore losers” and more. The community “leaders” were all too happy to ignore this ethical and legal breach in favor of touting the wise choice the Majority had made in the selection of an experienced, knowledgeable, local educational leader.
Ironically, Interim Superintendent Ogilvie turned out to be his own man and while moving some pieces of their agenda, he did not embrace the entire program nor move as quickly as he was ordered. In fact, to his credit Mr. Ogilvie recognized the serious problems facing the District and tried to establish a plan that addressed many of these concerns. Branded a “traitor” and a “liar”, who did not keep his promises, Mr. Ogilvie has been pushed relentlessly to perform or get out of the way. He has chosen the latter. He has tenured his resignation for July 1st, which brings us to another crossroad and another opportunity for the Majority to act collaboratively with minority members to serve the best interests of our 34,000 students.
It appears, however, that they will act unilaterally once again, with a sense of self-righteousness certitude about the correctness of their decision. They use the mantra, “urgency” to claim that the selection of a Superintendent has to take place with all due speed, when in fact, the urgency is to place another handpicked individual in the position who will do what Mr. Ogilvie wouldn't – THEIR BIDDING. An internal candidate has already been named – Emerson Principal James Weimer, Jr., a twenty-year employee of the District. According to his own resume, it’s fair to say that Mr. Weimer has never been outside the halls of Emerson. Following Dr. Brown, it’s hard to see how Mr. Weimer’s knowledge as an “insider” trumps the extensive experience and credentials of our previous Superintendent or Mr. Ogilvie’s, for that matter. But this is a subject that requires a full column. I am waiting for any additional information regarding Mr. Weimer’s goals, objectives for the District and his transition plan as the potential incoming Superintendent. Rumor has it that he’s already selecting his own team for City Hall and determining how he wants to spend the budget.
If Mr. Weimer is appointed, and all indications are that he will be, the question is, how will all members of the Board and the community be engaged in this process? Last Wednesday, at the Board’s Executive Affairs committee meeting that very question was posed by parents and community stakeholders. Mr. Paladino, as only he and Mr. McCarthy attended this meeting, answered that he had no intention of asking for public input or planned to listen even if someone tried to offer any. He also told the Board’s minority that we should “just take our guidance” in this matter. Presumably we’d be better off if we just shut up and went along with the Majority. Mr. Paladino has obviously decided to use a gentler, kinder form of bullying and intimidation. The meaning, however, is the same. The Majority doesn't plan to include us in the Superintendent selection and could care less about what we have to say.
Once again, they are proceeding with a process that is unethical, hypocritical, unprofessional and discriminatory. They are subverting the democratic process and violating their oath as public officials to uphold the laws of the State of New York. They have purposely disenfranchised a minority group of African American females and by extension, the constituents they were elected to represent. Their actions are not only morally reprehensible but they have abdicated their fiduciary responsibility by creating plans for this District without full disclosure or understanding of the impact these will have on the education of the District’s 34,000 students. They have demonstrated that their allegiance is not to our students or the District but to their own narrow, un-informed view of educational “reform”. Our children are the victims of this self-serving oligarchy. This biased Majority has lost the moral high ground – not that they ever had it – and their legitimacy. They should not be allowed to continue to operate with impunity. And no, Mr. Paladino, we will not “just take your guidance”!