Before Jon Stewart and the “Daily Show” there was David Frost and “That Was the Week that Was”. For those of you who need a refresher and for those for whom this is historic data, here’s a brief overview of the program. Originally produced in the United States from 1963-65, TW3 was a pioneering satirical and comedic television show. The broadcast lampooned topical events, which were all the “buzz” the previous week. A British import, it was hosted by British newsman, David Frost and also featured musical skits. Buffalo’s search for a Superintendent has provided more than its share of news “vignettes” worthy of parody by this legendary program. Yet even as we successfully concluded the search last week several events reminded me of TW3 and the biting commentary the program might have created with this material.
The selection of Dr. Kriner Cash as Superintendent ended months of uncertainty and concern about the leadership of the district. In an unprecedented vote, seven of the nine Board members unanimously confirmed Dr. Cash for the position. Two Board members were not in attendance at the special meeting called for that purpose. Mrs. Kapsiak, disabled by recent surgery, arrived at the meeting too late for the vote but in time for the Press Conference and to affirm her support for Dr. Cash. Mr. Paladino was on vacation in Paris. Members were invigorated and encouraged by this rare achievement of Board cohesiveness and the near universal consensus that we indeed have the right man for this time of travail. Our euphoria was short lived.
Not one to let distance and a vacation interfere with his First Amendment rights, Mr. Paladino fired off an email in which he accused New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia of being a “rookie” who had “rammed the new Superintendent up our …….”. He threatened Dr. Cash and promised to fashion a “career-ending casket” if he “messed with me”. Can’t you just envision the fun that TW3 would have with that image? Even the Buffalo News could not resist its own parody of this latest Paladino insult.
The Sunday morning edition featured the Paladino email in graphic detail followed later in the week by an editorial suggesting that Mr. Paladino lived in “Paladinoland” a mythical place where all things Paladino are given credence and sanction. The editorial concluded: “To summarize: Do what Paladino says, and the nation will salute; have his (Cash) own ideas, and it’s cemetery time. Only in Paladinoland – or maybe Trump Tower – is that kind of invective interpreted as normal or acceptable.”
Inexplicably, Mr. Paladino, apparently had second thoughts about the degrading email, and is quoted as saying about Dr. Cash, “I wish him well. I want him to do good.” Pardon my skepticism!
Dr. Cash’s first Board meeting was fairly uneventful (as Board of Education meetings go). Even Mr. Paladino was quietly reflective during most of the meeting. The normal divisions on the Board returned at the end of the meeting, however, when Dr. Harris-Tigg and I presented a resolution and motion for consideration and a vote. Dr. Harris-Tigg’s Resolution called on the Board to define and limit the time Special Counsel, Karl Kristoff spends at the Board meetings; cited concerns about the lack of a formal agreement between Mr. Kristoff and the District and the rising legal costs accruing as a result of the attorney’s routine attendance at the Board meetings. Her arguments were brushed aside and the Resolution was defeated by a 5-3 vote.
My motion called on the Board to end the longstanding silence of the Board as a body and its failure to address Mr. Paladino’s inappropriate behavior and actions. The motion read: “Move that the Board of Education formally, go on the record opposing the ongoing actions/behaviors of Board Member Carl Paladino noting that these actions are willfully counter-productive, un-professional, lacking in civility, harmful to the District and contradict the Board’s Codes of Conduct/Ethics. Further that the Board acknowledges its members’ roles as District Leaders and role models for our students and the school community in general and as such does not condone behaviors and actions by any member that would communicate the Board’s tolerance of behavior that violates our own Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics.”
As usual, majority Board members continued to respond to this issue with stony silence, deflecting their attention to their cell phones or tablets and ultimately voting the motion down. Surprisingly, even Board President James Sampson, who has been the recipient of numerous Paladino “smear-mails” voted against this motion. In typical style Paladino defended himself saying he had the right to talk about any of us, however he pleases, and besides he “tells the truth”. TW3 would have had a field day with this one.
The final takeaway from all of this is that the Board majority is unconcerned about their hypocritical stance and the messages sent to our children by this failure to act on a matter that mirrors situations they often confront. We require them to obey the Dignity for All Students Act while Board “leaders” are allowed to intimidate, harass and bully with impunity.
That’s no laughing matter, even for TW3.