Carl Paladino’s brute demeanor, un-tempered style, and lack of any background in education has shaped the city’s political discourse on school reform for years. Presumably because he ran (haphazardly) for governor, the Buffalo News has offered him an unfiltered platform that has done the publication enormous reputational damage — in addition to charges of racism, bias, and “failure of journalistic integrity.”
Paladino’s criticism of what he, in blanket terms, refers to as “the sisterhood,” has revolved around the claim that the former board majority was incompetent — despite offering no evidence for the rhetorical flourish. And given the local media’s (perhaps unconscious) racial biases, there never seems to be any pushback on the claim.
Political observers on the right and left say that Paladino was playing deliberate (and some say, astute) race-baiting politics. The strategy elected newcomers Larry Quinn and Patricia Pierce, who now have delivered Paladino a white board majority.
Now, the war that Paladino started has come back to bite him.
His harsh judgments of African American women have many political operatives insisting that Paladino’s white majority should endure the same level of media scrutiny. They say that the Board’s African American contingent is, indeed, more qualified and competent than Paladino’s — and they may be right.
Dr. Barbara Nevergold, who led the former majority, is a career educator who holds many advanced degrees, including a doctorate. Dr. Theresa Harris-Tigg also holds a doctorate and is a Professor of Education at Buffalo State College. Mary Ruth Kapsiak is a career educator who holds two masters degrees. Sharon Belton-Cottman is a mortgage banker.
In contrast, the new “white majority” is led by James Sampson, who holds a masters degree in social work. Carl Paladino and Larry Quinn are both businessmen who have no experience in education, and whose insights are questionable and unproven. Patricia Pierce was a district attorney, who some claim has been more focused on putting young minorities in jail rather than on helping them become productive members of society. And Jay McCarthy is a bartender to the wealthy and well connected patrons of Hutch’s, the swanky Delaware Avenue establishment.
But, as is percolating in this Buffalo News article, tensions on the board are escalating and the North District’s Jay McCarthy is at the center of the controversy. It seems that he was communicating privileged personnel information relating to former Superintendent Pamela Brown to Business First’s Dan Miner almost immediately after accessing the information in a closed door executive session. The article in question can be read here, and the information pertained to Brown’s separation agreement.
The former majority argues that this is a pattern of behavior that makes McCarthy “unfit for office.”
McCarthy was first elected in 2010 with the financial and political backing of Chris Jacobs, a real estate developer and former longtime board member, who even hired an attorney to remove a pro-charter school challenger from the ballot.
McCarthy, by virtue of his bartending position at Hutch’s, which is frequented by the city’s most wealthy and influential residents, was able to cobble a political coalition that fundraised large sums of money, despite McCarthy’s total lack of experience in education or insights into education reform.
Political operatives now speculate that the former board majority led by Dr. Nevergold, will make McCarthy’s lack of qualifications to serve on the Board a point of political rhetoric in the same way that Paladino would demean and defame “the sisterhood” for its alleged lack of competence.
Observers think it could be an effective strategy — and that it puts the North District is in play, when McCarthy runs for reelection.
Sources say that Dr. Nevergold is planning on picking up two seats in the next school board election: the West district, now held by Sampson; and the North district, now held by McCarthy. The same source says that they are unlikely to run a candidate against Paladino in the Park district, which is often the most energized by his divisive and mean spirited rhetoric. Though others speculate that Adrian Harris may run again for the Park district seat.