It’s official: Carl Paladino is running for the Buffalo Board of Education.
The former gubernatorial candidate and longtime vocal critic of the board has decided to run for the seat representing South Buffalo, where he lives.
He cites several issues in the school district as important – among them: reinstating the residency rule for teachers, returning to neighborhood schools and firing all the top-ranking administrators. But there is one that rates as his top priority.
“I intend to make sure Phil Rumore is no longer the president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation. My candidacy has nothing to do with the teachers. It has to do with one man,” Paladino said. “He does a great job for the teachers. But in the process he threw thousands and thousands of kids under the bus.”
Rumore, who has led the union for more than three decades, scoffed at Paladino’s desire to oust him.
“Consider the source, which is a person who has sent racist, bestiality and sexist emails to people,” Rumore said. “That he should even think of being on the Board of Education as a model for our students is enough to make one wonder if I’m not part of a bad [Franz] Kafka novel.”
Rumore also noted that the union’s members elect their president in a process that is not governed by or otherwise connected to the School Board. The union will be holding its next election this spring.
Historically, the teachers union has been the single biggest factor in School Board elections, between its financial contributions and phone banks in support of candidates it has endorsed. Three years ago, during the last board election, a downstate education reform group raised the ante, spending several thousand dollars apiece on candidates it supported.
Paladino’s entry into the race is likely to raise the financial stakes of the election even higher, given his deep pockets as one of Buffalo’s biggest developers.
He said he has not lined up a slate of candidates, but does plan to support others who he believes are “capable people.”
He wouldn’t say exactly how much he’s prepared to spend on either his own race or those of other candidates.
“Whatever it takes to win,” he said.
Six of the nine board seats are up in the May election, meaning the majority of the board could shift. Each of the six seats represents a geographic part of the city.
Of the six board members whose seats are up, Paladino supports only one: Jason McCarthy, who represents the North District. McCarthy, Paladino said, “is somebody that’s not in bed with or accepting bribes from Phil Rumore.”
It’s not yet clear who Paladino’s opposition will be for the board seat. Louis J. Petrucci, the incumbent in the Park District where Paladino will be running, has announced he will not seek re-election. Candidates who are running cannot submit their nominating petitions until early April.
Paladino declared on Wednesday his intentions to run for the board, during a taping of WBBZ-TV’s “Political Buzz.” The show is scheduled to air at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Paladino appears regularly on the show, alongside Democratic strategist Steve Pigeon.
The developer told the show’s host, John Di Sciullo, that he decided to run “because of the inability of the current members of the School Board to comprehend the challenges they have as a board.”
Paladino has for several years regularly lambasted the School Board as well as City Hall administrators for their failure to improve the schools. He frequently cites the district’s graduation rate, which hovers around 50 percent, and its performance on state tests – less than one-third of students are proficient in math and English – as proof that the system isn’t working.
Wednesday evening, he lambasted the board again during the public comment portion of its meeting. He took the board to task for not adequately addressing sewage backups that have plagued Math Science Technology Prep at Seneca for the past six weeks.
Minutes before Paladino spoke, a teacher from that school told the board that students were experiencing health problems because of the sewage backups. The school is among those that have recently been renovated.
“In a couple months, the ground rules are going to change here. That kind of nonsense isn’t going to happen,” Paladino told the board. “Six weeks. I would’ve fired [Joseph P. Giusiana, head of plant services] after the first week. He can’t fix a sewer line leak because he’s in bed with Ciminelli?” LP Ciminelli is doing work for the district.
Board President Mary Ruth Kapsiak, who is running for re-election this year, reprimanded Paladino, telling him that if he continued to verbally attack anyone, she would ask him to leave.
Paladino responded: “I want to know why this School Board condones a cover-up of the criminality of what’s going on in the schools.”
“You have to go. Because right now you’re out of line,” Kapsiak told him.
He shot back: “You’re out of line.”
And with that, a security guard escorted Paladino out of the board room.