Monday, January 30, 2017

Buffalo Board Members Go on Record Opposing DeVos Appointment

January 30, 2017

Chairman Lamar Alexander, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
455 Dirksen Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Alexander:

The undersigned members of the Buffalo New York Board of Education are writing this letter to voice our grave concerns about President Donald Trump’s nomination of Ms. Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of the US Department of Education.  The undersigned acknowledge that this letter expresses our individual position on this matter as time has not allowed the passage of a Board approved Resolution.  Nonetheless, we believe that we have an obligation, on the behalf of the 34,000 children in our District, to make a public statement expressing our opposition to Ms. DeVos’ nomination.   We object to the appointment of Ms. DeVos as the Secretary of the US Department of Education for the following reasons:

Ø  Over 90 percent of children in this country attend public schools.  Ms. DeVos’ express disdain for public education coupled with her abject lack of academic and experiential credentials to lead this federal department raise troubling questions about the future of federal support for public education under Ms. DeVos’ leadership. 
Ø  Further, she has a long history of using her wealth and influence to undermine public education through the promotion of vouchers, private and for-profit schooling with little or no regulation, transparency, accountability or respect for civil rights in her home state of Michigan.  It’s likely that she will use her new position as Secretary of the Department of Education to expand these actions nationally.
Ø  During her recent confirmation hearing, Ms. DeVos displayed an appalling lack of knowledge about educational issues, e.g. the high stakes standardized test debate; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, the Federal Law governing services to children with disabilities; and her refusal to commit to holding all schools receiving federal funding, whether public, public charter or private, to the same accountability standards.
Ø  It might be comical, if it was not so alarming, that Ms. DeVos refused to acknowledge that guns do not belong in schools, citing an obscure example of one Colorado school that might need them to ward off grizzly bears!

The foregoing is not an exhaustive list of our concerns, but these are significant issues that should be considered seriously by the Senate in making the final decision on this appointment.  We join hundreds of thousands of parents, students, educators and concerned citizens who oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of the US Department of Education.  Ms. DeVos has demonstrated a lack of commitment to public education and the fundamental values that historically support this institution as a critical component of a democratic society.  Senator Alexander, Ms DeVos’ record disqualifies her for this position and we urge your Committee to reject her appointment.


Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, President and Member-at-Large
Sharon Belton Cottman, Vice - President, Executive Affairs, Ferry District Representative
Dr. Theresa Harris-Tigg, Vice-President, Student Achievement, East District Representative
Hope Jay, Esq., North District Representative
Jennifer Mecozzi, West District Representative
Paulette Woods, Central District Representative

Cc:  Senator Schumer
Senator Gillibrand

Superintendent Kriner Cash

Monday, January 23, 2017

Secret and Unequal! Don’t Believe the Lie!

So, the Buffalo News has decided to take the six School Board member majority to task, as does Board member Larry Quinn, for supposedly holding  a “secret meeting” with our attorney.  But, where was the Editorial Board of the News in 2014 when the then Board majority, comprised of Larry Quinn, Carl Paladino, Patti Pearce, James Sampson and Jay McCarthy, hired Donald Ogilvie as Superintendent, without the involvement or the knowledge of the four minority members?  Mr. Ogilvie’s appointment as Superintendent was already à fait accompli when he was brought to the first meeting of the new Board and voted in by the 5 member majority over the objections of the minority members.  Not only did this appointment result from secret meetings of that Board majority, Mr. Ogilvie and a Board attorney but this unethical and illegal maneuver was never called out or condemned by the News. 

So much for the Editor’s irate observations and sham watchdog reporting when it comes to the ethical or legal actions of this current Board majority.  Secret meetings and decision making was a hallmark of the old Board.  Yet, even when pointed out, those Board members were not singled out, admonished for not playing fair or for “insulting the voters” as the News does in their January 23rd. editorial.

Contrary to this editorial or the comments of the oppositional Board members; the meeting was neither secret nor illegal.  In fact, Mr. Paladino knew about the meeting because one of his Board cohorts, who attended the meeting, breached confidentiality to inform him.  There was no attempt to hide the fact that a meeting was taking place; it was held in the Board room, during the day, with the knowledge of staff.  Members met with their attorney to receive legal advice in the matter of the petition to request Mr. Paladino’s removal from the Board.  Following their reporter’s research, the News’ article (January 22) had to admit that the members were following legal protocol in the conduct of this meeting:

 “When The News contacted Freeman, he said that elected boards are allowed to meet privately to seek legal advice without publishing notice of the meeting to the public.”  (January 22, 2017)

In spite of the facts to the contrary, a day later the News resorts to name-calling to bolster their claims of wrong-doing by the six Board members calling us “chickenhearts” and “cowards”.  Talk about being disingenuous!  The Buffalo News has never been supportive of the minority/Minority members of the Board.  This editorial is another in a series of editorials that have been thinly veiled attacks on our accomplishments, our competence, and our commitment to the children.  Chickenhearts!  Who even uses that word anymore?  Cowards?!  HARDLY!  We are six working class women, taking on men of means and choosing to seize and maintain the “moral high ground”.  Our wealth and our strength come from the support of thousands of men, women and children of all ages, races and backgrounds and national origins, who are standing with us, against intolerance, against racism, against misogyny, against homophobia, against xenophobia and against the distorted and biased editorials of news organizations masquerading as “fair and balanced” publications. 

We call ourselves, “Upstanders”, and will continue to confront bullying whether from individuals or mega organizations attempting to shape public opinion.

These comments are my opinion and not made in my capacity as the Buffalo Board of Education President.