We have said for years that better leadership is needed from the Buffalo Board of Education. For decades board members have presided over a district that has failed to provide a quality education to most of its students.
To get a better board, we need better candidates. That’s why word that Carl P. Paladino is considering a run for the Buffalo School Board may be a good thing. The abrasive businessman’s last try at office came in 2010 when he ran unsuccessfully for governor, though he won Erie County.
This will be a pivotal year in the makeup of the School Board, with six of the nine seats up for election this May. The three at-large seats will come up for election in May 2014.
Whoever fills these seats will have a direct impact on the more than 37,000 students for years to come, just as the $1 billion Joint Schools Construction project winds down and implementation of reforms coming from “Say Yes to Education” ramps up.
The district’s new superintendent, Pamela C. Brown, has set a lofty goal of graduating 80 percent of students, up from the current dismal 50 percent.
Whoever fills those School Board seats should possess the fiduciary skills and leadership background to be able to make policy decisions critical to the development of a high-quality education. They also must understand that while part of their role is to select the superintendent, it is also important they step back and allow her to do her job.
It’s important to reiterate these points, because while this particular School Board has members whose resumes look good, the results have been as dismal as the district’s graduation rates. Poor.
And it’s no surprise given the low standards needed to qualify to run. Members need only to be at least 18 years old, be a qualified voter in the district and, oh yes, be able to read and write.
Because the election is held in May, turnout is very low. Some races attract only a few hundred voters. Candidates backed by politically connected operatives serving special-interest groups ranging from the teachers union to various politicians find an easy road to election. And once they’re in, they are on a board that budgets nearly a billion dollars each year.
We’re not sure Paladino is the right person for the job. He has made caustic and confrontational statements regarding “the sisterhood,” referring to black females in power on the board and in the district.
But if his candidacy raises the profile of the job and draws some selfless individuals with the necessary skills to lead Buffalo schools out of the mess they’re in, he will have done the city a service.
His quote in The News on his reasons for considering a run, “I think it’s time for change …,” is on the mark. But his followup, “I’m going to destroy them,” referring to the board members, “All nine of them,” is, well, 100 percent Paladino.
Having said that, Paladino doesn’t owe anybody anything, and that kind of independence is needed on the School Board.
At $5,000 a year in salary for long hours of work, School Board members are virtual volunteers. But their influence over the lives of thousands of young people and future of the city demands that the best candidates join the race.