Monday, August 3, 2015

A Call for Accountability

In a busy week that included a radio interview during which he tried to defend and excuse the racial slurs made by Joe Mascia about several African American political and civic leaders, Carl Paladino also had time to dash off a few inflammatory emails to Board of Education President Jim Sampson and myself.

On July 29th, Paladino angrily responded to an email request I sent to the Interim Superintendent.  Accusing me of ordering the Superintendent to take action on an item, he wrote:

“Your order was phrased as a question. Time for you to answer to the community for your maligned and arrogant attempts to destroy the charter system which serves over 9,000 Buffalo kids with a quality education that they would never get in the BPS.  If you were really about the kids you would advocate to disassemble the BPS and give every kid a voucher to choose where he or she would be best educated.  But no, you won’t because that would not sit well with your pledge of loyalty to Crystal Barton and Phil Rumore both of whom endorsed and supported your election. The charter schools have long waiting lists of applicants.  Those parents have the wisdom to not be led blindly by people like you, Cottman, Thiggs (sic) and the other thug activists who seek to protect the unions and maintain your empowerment.  There is no other logic to your position.”   Paladino ended this ridiculous attack with a sophomoric insult.  “Who ties your shoes for you?”

Although disrespectful and nonsensical the contents of this email pale in comparison to one(s) that were sent the following day to Mr. Sampson.  The call for a special board meeting to address the required Office of Civil Rights response and the transportation issue for the Charter School for Applied Technology, elicited the following tirade:

“Jim, I will not attend that meeting because I will not vote on either issue until we have appointed a Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent and replaced you with Larry Quinn as President of the Board so as to closely monitor the new Superintendent.”

The email continues with an assault on Mr. Sampson’s leadership competency and his failure to keep Mr. Paladino informed.  Paladino asks, “Where did you ever get the idea that you could tell me what to do or ignore me.”  The subject of a new Superintendent candidate, Dr. Kriner Cash, is raised several times throughout this email.   “I am willing to hear Cash out only because he comes highly recommended and only if he is agreeable to the appointment of Eberle as operating Deputy and an immediate restructuring of the executive staff as guided by the Board majority.  The idea of bringing in a black only to pacify the black minority on the Board is abhorrent to me……If Kriner Cash is acceptable he can be Superintendent only with Eberle appointed as Deputy Superintendent in complete charge of day to day operations of the district with the Weimer team for the non-receivership schools with Cash responsible for the receivership schools and the implementation of our reform agenda.  If Cash is not acceptable, then Eberle must be appointed as Superintendent with the Weimer team.”

The substance of these emails is troubling, particularly the one to Mr. Sampson.  Mr. Paladino is clear that (1) he intends to force the hiring of his hand-picked Superintendent candidate.  He is even willing to negotiate the hiring of Black man to be a figurehead if necessary (2) he wants the current executive team fired, immediately and replaced by a group he calls the “Weimer Team”.   There’s no concern about the destabilization resulting from the abrupt removal of staff, who are currently working on all the plans for school turnaround and initiating a new school year.  There is no consideration of the havoc these changes would create for our students.  The Paladino demands and ultimatums should be viewed further from several vantage points:

(1)    They reflect an arrogance and disregard for the legal limits of the authority of an individual Board member:  per Board By-Laws 1110 (Education Law Sections 2551-2554):

Members of the Board of Education have legal authority for the conduct of the District schools only when acting as a body, by majority vote, in a properly convened session.

Board members acting as individuals have no authority over school affairs or school       personnel.  The Board will not be bound in any way by any individual's statement or action unless the Board, through adopted policy or by majority vote, has delegated this authority to the individual member.

(2)    They constitute a pattern of intimidation and bullying of individuals, which have culminated in numerous law suits, instituted by Mr. Paladino or against him.  These legal cases predominantly impact Black women. The District has and continues to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

(3)    The pattern of intimidation, however, now extends to anyone who refuses to agree with Mr. Paladino or follow his directives.  Mr. Ogilvie, for example, experienced similar intimidation when Mr. Paladino confronted him and ordered him to submit his resignation.  

(4)    The exclusion of the minority board members from governance responsibility is deliberate and serves to disenfranchise them and their constituents

This email is also a stunning example of privilege.  Otherwise, who would include State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Dr. Kriner Cash as recipients of an email that proposes such improprieties except someone who believes he does not have to follow the same dictates as other people? Does “accountability” only apply to our students, our teachers, our administrators and some Board members?

It’s time for Mr. Paladino to be held accountable for his actions.  He has acted willfully outside of his authority as a Board member and clearly has been acting in this manner for some time.   The minority members have written a letter to the Commissioner calling for Mr. Paladino’s removal from the Board. Others are joining us and writing their own letters.  We need the Commissioner to hear from the community and to know that this behavior will not continue to be tolerated.

(New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia; 89 Washington Avenue; Albany, NY 12234)
Read the full text of the Paladino email to James Sampson and the letter to Commissioner Elia, here


  1. We're not really sure what the problem is here. What havoc can possibly be created from making positive changes toward actually educating our children instead of militantly maintaining the status quo, as the minority on the board and their enablers in the BTF would like to do? The status quo is a history of failure.
    Can it get any more "destabilized" than it already is? Embracing positive change instead of fighting it will only elevate your stature as problem solvers. Right now, you just look like obstructionists, obviously unwilling to admit your mistakes of the past

    1. If you're not sure what the problem is here then you are part of the problem. "Status quo" is not desired by any one. The "change" the Carl Paladino advocates for IS status quo.
      The rhetoric of failure that you are so quick to parrot is by design. Why is the failure least present among the sons and daughters of the wealthy? That's by design.
      The state's stranglehold on curriculum and assessment is what perpetuates status quo and thus "failure".
      Real advocates of change discuss curriculum and assessment, not charter schools, vouchers and other red-herrings.