It’s official: Developer and former gubernatorial nominee Carl P. Paladino is a member of the Buffalo Board of Education. He won’t be one of the board officers, but he doesn’t need a title to stir things up.
He’s continuing his pledge to try to get rid of Superintendent Pamela C. Brown and challenged the nominees for president and vice president of the board at Monday’s reorganization meeting.
The board ultimately named at-large board member Barbara A. Seals Nevergold as the new board president. She said her first order of business as president is to improve the board’s “cohesiveness” and build stronger relationships among the members.
Asked whether she believes she’ll get along with Paladino, she said, “I can work with him. I can work with many people.”
Paladino, who represents the Park District, joins the board with incoming members Theresa Harris-Tigg, representing the East District, and James M. Sampson, representing the West District.
Nevergold said she hopes that the media’s fixation with Paladino won’t overshadow positive news coming out of the school district.
Improving communication with the public and encouraging more transparency is a key priority, Nevergold said. She added that she hopes to launch some community listening tours and wants to combat “the perception of being secretive” – a reputation that has dogged the district for years.
Nevergold, a longtime educator, was first appointed to the board in December 2011 as the at-large member to replace Christopher L. Jacobs when he was elected Erie County clerk.
She said Monday that she does not support removing Brown as superintendent and does not accept the idea that most Buffalo public schools are failing. The district has a strategic plan to improve student academics, she said.
“This is not the time to turn around and undo what we’re trying to do,” she said.
Though it was rapidly apparent that Nevergold had the votes to win the president’s position Monday, Paladino decided to keep things interesting by nominating board member Sharon Belton Cottman as president, much to her surprise.
Cottman’s dislike for Paladino is well-known. When he was elected to the seat in May, she said Paladino and the other two incoming board members should receive mandated School Board member training before they took their seats in July.
When told that Paladino and the other new members couldn’t receive that training before they’d been officially sworn in, Cottman had suggested that Paladino “get some remedial training in advance.”
Cottman declined his nomination Monday and said later that she would not allow him to make her the butt of his jokes. That didn’t stop Paladino, who said he believes in competition.
“I picked Sharon because I think she has a unique talent for rolling her eyes,” he said.
New board member Harris-Tigg nominated herself as vice president for student achievement and won the seat with eight votes. Cottman abstained.
The board was split on who to name the board’s vice president for executive affairs. Cottman nominated North District board member Jason M. McCarthy, while Paladino nominated newcomer Sampson.
McCarthy won the seat in a 6-3 vote, with board members Paladino, John B. Licata and Harris-Tigg voting against.
While the Board of Education’s reorganization meeting took center stage Monday, it wasn’t the only news to come out of the school district.
Many school district observers have been awaiting the superintendent’s announcement regarding the reorganization of the district’s central office staff, which was touted as a way to “streamline” the administration and save the district money while providing superior support to schools.
At a Monday morning news conference, Brown presented 25 slides, including nine flow charts with no comparative information, no names, and no summary on how the multitude of personnel changes affect the district’s bottom line. Although the flow charts are color-coded, no legend was provided at the press conference to help anyone piece together what the personnel changes meant.
Brown said her reorganization changes, including eliminating some vacant positions, so far have saved the district $1 million. She also said 30 positions have been eliminated through retirements, attrition and also roughly a dozen layoffs. It wasn’t clear whether that’s a result of Brown’s reorganization or general cuts to the 2013-14 budget.
Though Brown had described the reorganization as a way to “reduce excessive high/mid level management positions,” interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn said the central office is expected to see a net increase of five positions.
Some positions are being consolidated as part of the reoganization, but it’s unclear how this affects the district’s total number of central office administrators. Attempts by The Buffalo News to further clarify this information after Monday’s board meeting were unsuccessful.
Brown is apparently eliminating a chief of staff position but adding an “executive assistant to the superintendent.” She’s also apparently replacing the district’s main lawyer, expanding the finance and registration offices, and changing a number of other job titles.
The human resources director is now “chief of talent management.” The district’s three community superintendents – central office administrators who directly supervise the district’s 50-plus schools – have each been renamed “chief of school leadership.”
To provide better support for the schools, Brown said she added a fourth chief position so that each of the four school leadership chiefs will supervise fewer schools and be able to provide better school support than they can now.
Brown was expected to name a new, permanent deputy superintendent as part of her reorganization but said Monday that a national search for a permanent deputy is continuing. Brown is also looking for a new chief of public relations, but that position currently remains vacant, as well.
News Staff Reporter Jill Terreri contributed to this report.
For more information about the district reorganization, visit the School Zone blog at www.buffalonews.com/schoolzone