The school board majority was stoic as they were berated by each member of the minority bloc for their closed-door discussions on who will be the district’s next Superintendent. The majority’s selection process is an illegal violation of the States’ Open Meetings Law, the minority bloc alleges.
The minority bloc explicitly directed outgoing Superintendent Donald Ogilvie from meeting with James Weimer, who they say has been acting without authority as if he already is the district’s superintendent — summoning employees and planning leadership transitions — before the board has had even a single discussion on the Superintendent search.
It is unclear if Ogilvie will keep his meeting with Weimer, scheduled for next week. Ogilvie talked openly with the board about his awkward predicament, and how we wanted to be sure to leave someone with the necessary information they will need to take the reigns.
“A single page resume doesn’t cut it for me as a parent,” said Larry Scott, a North Buffalo parent who ran for school board and who supports Assistant Superintendent Will Keresztes. “There is a leader here today who has been here, and who has a plan.”
Weimer has an undergraduate degree from Buffalo State College and a Masters Degree in Educational Administration from Canisius. Pamela Brown — who was slandered as incompetent by Carl Paladino — held a Phd from Harvard, an undergraduate degree from Stanford, and had two masters degrees from the University of Southern California.
“Seriously, folks,” Eve Shippins asked the Board of Weimer’s resume. “He doesn’t have the qualifications. To promote him would be a joke.”
Some activists in the black community are calling on the board to bring back Dr. Pamela Brown, who they view as a success story — someone who was able to steady a deeply dysfunctional ship, map out a turnaround plan, and increase graduation rates by nearly 8 percentage points in a single year. Even in an intensely vitriolic political environment, she handled each situation with professionalism and grace.
Board member Carl Paladino could learn quite a lot from her.
Organized speakers — many of them teachers — were demanding that the board majority instead select Will Keresztes, the Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, who has been a mainstay at board meetings for years and is considered a moderate compromiser, many say in the mold of Ogilvie.
Philip Rumore, the president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, did not have kind words for the board’s search process for Superintendent. In addition to Rumore, there were a long line of teachers and parents who arranged to make public comments to the board.
“It’s an insult to the parents, it’s an insult to the community. We are going to file a violation of practices against the district, and we’re not going to take it anymore.” said Rumore.
“The parents and teachers of this district want you, Mr. Paladino, to resign from this school board — effective immediately,” demanded one parent.
“Some people on the board have a messiah complex,” said another parent.
“This isn’t Ferguson, but you all are going to incite something here that you can’t put out,” said another parent who was troubled with Paladino’s use of the word incompetent.
“We should of had a moment of silence for Baltimore, because when you take the power of the people, the people fight back,” said another parent.
“Nobody needs a puppet running Buffalo Public Schools,” said a Crystal Barton, principal who spoke boldly.
“Democracy is alive and well in this house. It comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes from loud voices, sometimes in quite voices, sometimes in a crescendo of voices. Sometimes it’s pure self interest and outright threatening. But democracy is a process with the purpose of improving lives for people,” Ogilvie said, in a conciliatory tone that seemed to offer a somber but conciliatory end of the public comment period. Ogilvie is seen as a bridge builder by teacher activists.