May 27, 2015
Dear NYS Legislators:
On May 21st, Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes submitted Assembly Bill #7680, “AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to mayoral control of the city school district of the city of Buffalo”. If passed this Bill will effectively disenfranchise countless voters in the City of Buffalo, and establish a dubious, at best, school management system which I believe will create incalculable instability. As a sitting Board member, I speak for myself but I believe that I have a perspective that is informed by my knowledge of the complex issues facing the District. I find it inconceivable that the Mayor should consider assuming leadership of the District without consulting the Interim Superintendent, current Board members or senior staff members. If the future educational issues of the children are to be properly addressed as a result of Mayoral takeover, at the very least, the Assemblywoman and the Mayor should have a transitional phase as part of the proposed plan. However, that is the least of my objections as I see the legislation as terminally flawed.
The legislation proposes to give the Mayor the authority to hire the Superintendent and to replace current Board members with his own appointees. The Mayor will also appoint a number of community advisory boards that would be issue oriented, e.g. English Language Learners, Early childhood education, general and mental health, and special education. The rationale for locating this authority with the Mayor is that it would allow the public to hold him accountable for failure to make progress. Absent any extraordinary accountability measures, the public has the same option to hold the Mayor responsible that it does to hold current Board members accountable; that’s the VOTE. Board members have either a three year or five year term, while the Mayor has a four year term. It’s not clear what the advantage is or how the Mayor will be held more accountable than elected Board members.
Herein lies the crux of the problem with this legislation. It proposes to strip authority from duly elected officials (current Board members) to empower another duly elected official with powers that are not inherent in his office. Further, Mayor Brown has provided little to no information about his plans and how he will implement a model to direct the school district operations with less than three months before a new school year begins. In addition, there’s been no opportunity for public comment or feedback.
There is always “talk” about the children and how this legislation is really about the children and that there is an urgency to change the current dynamics. I don’t disagree with either the urgency or the need for change. But, I have heard nothing to date that would provide an assurance that the change envisioned by this legislation will really be a positive one for the children. I see only disruption and disregard for the children.
I urge you not to vote for Bill #7680. It is antithetical to the democratic process.
Barbara Seals Nevergold
Barbara Seals Nevergold, PhD, At-Large Member BOE