Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes continues to advance legislation in Albany that would disband the current school board, strip voters of their ability to elect candidates to the board, and give Mayor Byron Brown the authority to appoint and fire the Superintendent and board members at his sole discretion.
The legislation comes at a time when Peoples-Stokes has been criticized for using the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority — an agency also under Mayoral control — as a patronage hub for her family and political supporters. Her husband works as the BMHA’s “crime coordinator,” a role which no one familiar with the authority seems to be able to define. Her goddaughter is the agency’s Executive Director.
The agency is badly mismanaged, in large part, because of patronage and suspect contracting processes. Opponents of mayoral control fear that putting the Buffalo Public Schools under mayoral control would invite the Assemblywoman and Mayor Brown to similarly mismanage a much larger, nearly $1 billion annual budget.
Community activists fear that they will loose a democratically elected board — the only lever that the public has to affect change in the school system. Left unchecked, they say, banking interests and real estate developers will steamroll teachers unions. They argue that “busting the teachers union” is the “first step towards privatizing public education for the purpose of gentrifying the black community out of Buffalo and into the suburbs.”
Political operatives have already been speculating that the Assemblywoman will face a primary contest next year.
It’s been rumored that Mike Deely, the regional president of NYSUT, was enraged last month when the Assemblywoman announced the proposal. Sources say that he felt betrayed, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on local campaigns in the last election cycle. Those sources say that he was actively recruiting a candidate, but seems to have since been placated by Peoples-Stokes.
Observers think that Deely regrets his stubborn refusal to support former Senator Antoine Thompson for that Assembly seat last year. Thompson has been a steadfast supporter of public education.
Still, teachers and community activists have been advancing their own suggestions for such a primary challenge — whether Deely likes it or not. Names being chatted about include school board members Dr. Barbara Seals-Nevergold and Dr. Theresa Harris-Tigg; community activists Veronica Nichols and Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux; and pastor Chuck Clemens.