Friday, June 12, 2015

A Call For Accountability

June 12, 2015

Mr. James Sampson, President
Buffalo Board of Education
801 City Hall
Buffalo, New York 14202

Dear Mr. Sampson:

This is the 4th correspondence to you requesting that you exercise leadership in addressing the egregious behavior of one of the members of the Buffalo Board of Education; Mr. Carl Paladino, Park District Representative.  You received three previous memos from Dr. Nevergold, each prompted by incidents in which Mr. Paladino showed blatant disrespect and disregard for individuals with whom this District has professional interactions.  The specific incidents that were cited in prior requests were:  Mr. Paladino’s threat to Dr. Gary Orfield, OCR Consultant; the demand for Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie’s resignation and threat to seek his termination if he did not resign and the public defamation of a Board employee.  To date you have not responded to any of these matters, either in response to Dr. Nevergold’s memoranda or based on your own knowledge and experience of what constitutes good governance.

Now, we find ourselves (yes, as a Board member, Mr. Paladino’s actions impact this entire District) the subject of yet another outrageous, unprofessional, racially charged remark that Mr. Paladino made last Saturday about the “damned Asians” taking college placements away from citizens.  Mr. Paladino’s comments were not only biased and insensitive; they were based on inaccurate information, something that Mr. Paladino does routinely. 

This is behavior that is repetitive.  In the past and to this day, Paladino has denigrated Black women including Board members, former Superintendent Dr. Pamela C. Brown and other administrative staff. Most recently Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and new State Regent, Dr. Catherine Collins have been the objects of his ire.  Using descriptors such as the “sisterhood, cabal, clueless, nonsensical and incompetent” he has tried to reduce African American women to a position as self-serving individuals.  He has alleged that these African American females are motivated by an opportunity for “self-empowerment” and “do not care about African American children”.  His behavior is unseemly, abusive and unacceptable for a publicly elected official.  Is this the example that we want to set for our students?

The Board’s refusal to address Mr. Paladino’s behavior, indeed the silence of the Board as an entity sends the message that we all condone this behavior.  However, the four signers of this letter offer a resounding rebuttal to this assumption.  We have frequently voiced disapproval of Mr. Paladino’s breaches of Board policies and inappropriate racialized statements. Yet, in spite of his repeated violations, this Board, as a body, has not taken any constructive or decisive action to reject or dis-avow support of Mr. Paladino’s behavior.  Our own Student Code of Conduct, which applies to everyone in the District, in case you didn’t know, states that “The Board of Education is responsible to lead by example….” (p. 29).  Nearly 80 percent of our student population are children of color, who are watching their representatives to see how we handle this situation.

While we understand that New York State Education Law does not give the Board authority to censure or reprimand a school board member, the Board “may criticize the exercise of poor judgement by one of its members (Appeal of Silano, Ed Dept Rep 20 (1993)”.   Through our Student Code of Conduct, we have set standards for acceptable student behavior and consequences for not following those standards.  So, we ask, are the Board members who continue to maintain their silence expecting more of our students than they do of themselves?  As adults are you saying to our students, “Do as we say, not as we do?”  If that is ultimately the answer, we say shame on you for taking this hypocritical stance. 

Some of you are quick to label our students and our schools as failing.  Our students are not failing!  Our schools are not failing!  Its members of the Board of Education, who refuse to be accountable and prefer to allow one errant member to tarnish our students, tarnish our District and ultimately tarnish our City.  You are the ones who are failing!  It’s time to “man” or “woman” up!


Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, PhD, At-Large Member  
Sharon Belton-Cottman, Ferry District Member  
Theresa Harris-Tigg, PhD, East District Member  

Mary Ruth Kapsiak, Central District Member

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