Former school board president Dr. Barbara Seals-Nevergold published a statement that opposes recent efforts by Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes to replace the school board with mayoral control of district schools.
Peoples-Stokes is the chairwoman of a powerful minority caucus in the State Assembly, and she has the ear of the new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, giving her a newfound political clout. She had former Regents Chancellor Bob Bennett replaced earlier this year. We will see if she has the clout to move legislation through Albany — in opposition to teachers’ unions that spent heavily on her campaign and others.
But Nevergold, with board member Dr. Theresa Harris-Tigg, have been the African American community’s leading voices on public education. In some circles, Nevergold is seen as having a stronger political base — having attracted the support of both of the east side’s political power structures, known as Grassroots and Unity Coalition. Peoples-Stokes is thought to be a more factional figure, being associated closely with Grassroots.
The situation is likely to present real political consequences for the Assemblywoman. She is likely afraid of a challenge from either Nevergold or Harris-Tigg, who are both charismatic and have a commanding presence.
The teachers’ unions, led locally by Mike Deely, feel burned by Peoples-Stokes. NYSUT donated heavily in her campaign against former Senator Antoine Thompson, who they now realize would have been the stronger policy advocate.
Last week the Board majority decided to launch a search for the next superintendent of the Buffalo School System. That decision comes nearly two months after the Board’s minority proposed and advocated for a search and barely a week after the vociferous objections of the community to the plan to appoint Principal James Weimer, without a search, to the position. It also appears to be no coincidence that this change of heart comes on the heels of legislation submitted by Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes that would greatly change the leadership of the District.
If successful, the new law would give authority to Mayor Brown to recruit, hire and supervise the Superintendent. He’d also be empowered to dismiss current Board members and appoint 9 new members of his choosing. In effect, this legislation would eliminate local control and undermine the democratic process of an elected school board. There is still a lot to learn about the model of mayoral control that the Assemblywoman and the Mayor envision, but few of us see the value of governmental takeover and question the “reform” philosophy that under-girds it. While there are many questions as yet unanswered, a principle one is whether the Assemblywoman will get the support she needs to move her bill forward. With Albany politics being what they are, it remains to be seen how deals will be formed to reach this end goal.