Sunday, May 3, 2015

The 5th Vote

The Board minority has often acknowledged that an influential 5th Vote exists.  That vote is defined by many terms:  parents, students, educators, city residents, tax payers and concerned citizens.  Throughout this school year the 5th Vote has been perseverant, resilient, resourceful, knowledgeable, and steadfast.  And yes, the 5th Vote has also been vociferous and passionate.  But most importantly, the 5th Vote’s commitment to the children of the Buffalo School system is the foundation of their advocacy for plans, policies and people to address the educational needs of our students. One other characteristic of this group that has to be emphasized is that they are voters.  They participated in a democratic process to elect Board members, who, as public officials are obligated to listen to and consider the opinions of constituents in the decisions they make.  This is a fundamental right upon which this nation was founded.  To do anything less, especially in a system that promotes “community engagement”, is hypocritical and dishonest.

At last Wednesday’s Board meeting, the 5th Vote refused to be silent or silenced, even as the five majority Board members employed silence as another tactic of non-engagement.  Their refusal to verbally respond to members of the minority bloc or the 5th Vote communicated a lack of respect and dismissiveness.  Their stony silence contributed to the demise of their second, hand-picked Superintendent.  The question on my mind and others; Why wasn't this candidate defended by those who sought to give him the position as the Chief Education Officer of a billion dollar school district?  Was this an attempt to prevent open scrutiny of his ability to fill the position or was there little to say beyond “he’s a nice man”, a phrase used by one or two supporters. 

The plan to make Principal James G. Weimer, Jr. the next Superintendent was hatched in secrecy, without the participation of the Board’s minority or feedback from the 5th Vote including those who might have been eager supporters of Mr. Weimer.  It is reminiscent of the manner in which Mr. Ogilvie was hired as the Interim Superintendent.  For a second time, the majority board members have demonstrated a management style that is steeped in arrogance, privilege and exclusivity.  And now that Mr. Weimer has backed out of a really poor idea, what’s next on the board majority’s agenda?  

For now, it appears that they have two strategies.  (1) According to one member, they plan to try to talk Mr. Weimer into changing his mind and recommitting to their plan. (2) They've decided that the best defense is an offense (aka offensive plan) to blame everyone but themselves for this debacle; principally the unions.  Apparently they find it difficult to acknowledge that either the Board minority or the constituents have the intelligence and capability to oppose their ill-conceived plot.  They are masters at playing the “blame game” and thinking that no one is able to see through this thinly veiled excuse for failure to assume personal responsibility for their own actions.

What’s next?  The District MUST have a Superintendent – Acting, Interim or Permanent –  in place on July 1st.  The Board has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the position is filled with a capable leader.  Will the Board majority add dereliction of duty to their list of incompetent actions?  The Board minority has reached out numerous times to propose that we work collaboratively.  We have a legal responsibility but more than that, we have a moral obligation to the students we were elected to serve.

On Friday, May 1st, the Board’s minority sent out the following press release, imploring the majority to come together in the best interests of the District and our students.

“The Buffalo Board of Education’s search for a Superintendent collapsed today with the withdrawal of Emerson High School Principal James Weimer, Jr. for consideration for the position. Weimer was the acknowledged choice of the Board’s majority, who planned to appoint the Superintendent upon the premature ouster or planned departure of current Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie.  Ogilvie’s resignation on July 1st creates an urgent need for Board action to initiate a plan for the appointment of an Interim Superintendent, pending a more extensive search for a permanent school leader. 

The Board has the responsibility to work collaboratively to structure and initiate this process. 

The Board’s minority is calling for a special board meeting on Tuesday, May 5th to begin this critical work.”

We have heard nothing from the Board President regarding our request and calls to majority members were either unanswered or they refused the meeting.  It’s time for all members of the Board to listen to The 5th Vote.  We remind the Board majority that the 5th Vote has been cast.  It has demonstrated that its vote outweighs that of the majority.  It has demonstrated that the 5th Vote has power and influence.  The 5th Vote is growing; its voice is getting louder and will not be ignored.   

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