Monday, April 20, 2015

School Reform Roulette

There seems to be no end to the “plans” to install new leadership for the Buffalo Public Schools.  The Governor and Board of Regents threaten to appoint an all-powerful “czar” to turn the District around, curtail the Unions, expand the charter schools’ footprint and close low-performing schools.  Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes plans to introduce new legislation to allow mayoral control, which Mayor Brown says he’s willing to assume but wants to hear what the community thinks.  The Board majority, led by its most vocal member Carl Paladino, is intent on appointing a Deputy Superintendent who will be the heir apparent to the position of Superintendent when Mr. Ogilvie’s resignation becomes effective on July 1st.  If the Buffalo News is correct Paladino’s person is a current Principal, who has never left his building.  The Board’s minority has called for a local/national search to find the best qualified, experienced and competent individual to fill the position.  Attendees at three community forums, held by the minority last week, are in favor of a broad search that will include community input and seek a qualified individual from a diverse field of candidates.

The proposal for mayoral control has produced an interesting range of responses. The business, philanthropic, higher education and other leaders, who are usually very eager to offer suggestions about school leadership, have been uncharacteristically silent on the matter, at least publicly.  The Buffalo News reported in an April 19th article that Mr. Wilmers has had conversations with Lt. Governor Hochul and members of the Governor’s office on the topic.  And he’s in favor of mayoral control.  He’s previously aired his views on the state of the public schools.  But does he speak for the community?  Others, including Board members from both camps have expressed questions about the structure of the mayoral model and the benefits.  As usual, however, one member has gone on record vehemently opposing the idea in terms that would suggest that Mayor Brown should back off or risk becoming a leading member of a new group that one might label as the “brotherhood”.

Carl Paladino’s April 18th letter to the editor succinctly informed Mayor Brown to “stand aside and leave it to others to do the heavy lifting.”  Paladino pointedly asked if the Mayor wanted “mayoral control to extend the status quo and re-empower those who have fed at the public trough….”  He asserted that if the Mayor “hears voices who want change”, they are the voices of “status quo advocates riled by the Board of Education minority to oppose change.”  These statements echo the same biased rhetoric used over and over again when Mr. Paladino denigrates and attempts to negate the voices of the minority Board members and any other individual who disagrees with him, e.g. Dr. Pamela Brown, Dr. Mary Guinn.  Even Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes became a target for harsh criticism for her support of new Regent Dr. Catherine Fisher Collins.   As the focus of Mr. Paladino’s ire shifts to mayoral takeover, will it now be the Mayor’s turn to join the disdained?  Rev. Kinzer Pointer, another object of Paladino ridicule, may have inaugurated the “brotherhood” when he rallied the Concerned Clergy Coalition to support a national superintendent search.  Mr. Paladino’s treatment of Don Ogilvie, the man he once considered his vision-bearer, has earned Mr. Ogilvie honorary status in the group.

Carl Paladino has been transparent about his goal from day one. It’s apparently shared by the other four Board majority members.  His mission is to “dis-assemble” the public schools.  In the April 18th letter, he defines his “reform agenda” as one which is intended to upset “advocates for the status quo and exposing the underbelly of an institution wrought with incompetence, morale problems, lack of leadership, waste and family and friends rather than merit promotion and appointment.”  The level of hypocrisy demonstrated by these statements is astounding.  These accusations come from a man, who has contributed significantly to the poor morale and the instability of the system; who is promoting cronyism and his own “family and friends” initiative; whose plan for the new “leadership” of this district is questionable; and who scorns dissenters as “advocates for the status quo” and feeding “at the public trough” while being a benefactor of public monies for years.  Only one example, of many, needs to be cited to underscore this point; the Board of Education’s multi-year, million dollar plus lease with Ellicott Development for the building that housed Middle Early College until 2014.

The push to hire the Deputy Superintendent, aka the Superintendent, is being fast tracked.  Mr. Ogilvie will recommend a candidate for the Deputy Superintendent to the Board at the April 29th meeting.  Mr. Paladino has stated that he’s already selected his candidate. The implication is that Mr. Ogilvie will concur with his choice.   As far as Paladino’s concerned, a national search is not needed; in fact a local search is unnecessary.  Furthermore, he believes that the majority were given a mandate in the last election. Therefore community engagement, including input from and accountability to, are not needed.

The Board minority believe that nothing can be further from the truth.  Our children deserve an educational leader, who has the credentials, experience, knowledge and competencies to move the District forward.  We may find that candidate locally, but without a search we will have another Superintendent that the Board majority plans to manipulate.  And unlike Mr. Ogilvie, they may not resist. We seek and value input from community stakeholders and urge you to call, write, email, speak to or otherwise make your opinions known.  The reformers’ mantra is that there needs to be a sense of urgency regarding the schools.  We agree.  There is an urgent and immediate need for the community to raise their voices in opposition to the plan to dismantle our schools.

No comments:

Post a Comment