So, let me get this straight? Commissioner Elia comes to Buffalo and she meets with Mr. Sampson, Mr. Quinn, Superintendent Cash and members of the business class? Or should I say bloc? According to the Buffalo News (April 30, 2016), this meeting occurred at the Mansion on Delaware. The News described the meeting as follows:
“In a private room at the Mansion on Delaware, some of the city’s most influential business leaders held court with State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash. School Board majority members Larry Quinn and James P. Sampson, who is running for re-election in the West district, also attended.
Elia talked about the importance of holding schools and teachers accountable for their performance in the weeks before the election.”
The article does not identify the date of this secret meeting, but in a previous article, Tiffany Lankes dropped the fact that Mr. Sampson missed the Buffalo Association of Black Journalist’s candidate’s debate on April 12th because he was having dinner with the Commissioner. Or could the meeting have taken place on March 31st when the Commissioner visited two of Buffalo’s Persistently Struggling schools to reinforce her message about the importance of students taking the standardized tests. In fact, her message was so well received that one of the principals of the schools promised to have an “opt-in test assembly” and boasted about talking a number of parents out of refusing the tests for their children. Ironically, unlike her meeting with parents, in the suburbs, the previous day, the Commissioner did not ask Buffalo parents to “trust her”. And she certainly didn’t reach out to the minority Board members and invite us to meet with her in the Mansion on Delaware.
But, I’ll get back to that issue later. Let me ask this question. And I hope that some of my readers will join me in asking the Commissioner or her Board for an answer. Since when does the Commissioner of the State Education Department insert herself into local Board elections? Or even give the appearance of engaging in the process of a community selecting its School Board representatives? How many other secret meetings have been held with the parties named and unnamed? And what other topics regarding the Buffalo Schools have been on the agenda? More Charter Schools? More Buffalo School closings? Neighborhood Schools? How the moneyed class will try to influence the outcome of the Board elections? Certainly the list is endless when it comes to the machinations of the majority members of the Board.
The Commissioner’s actions may not be illegal, but they are dismissive of a group of stakeholders, including Board members; they are disrespectful; they are divisive and they are not acceptable. The Superintendent also has some explaining to do.