The Buffalo Board of Education Wednesday night struck back at a parents group whose leaders it fears are supporting candidates against board members – and believes it has the legal grounds to do so.
Also on Wednesday, the Buffalo Teachers Federation overwhelmingly approved the Annual Professional Performance Review, a teacher evaluation process previously approved by the state Education Department, at its council of delegates meeting. The school district had stood to lose between $30 million and $50 million in state aid and grants if the agreement was not approved.
At the board’s Executive Affairs Committee meeting, board member Ralph Hernandez, one of the candidates who could face a challenger who favors positions more in alignment with leaders of the District Parents Coordinating Council, asked for a legal opinion and received one he was hoping for.
“It’s the opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel for Buffalo Public Schools that the DPCC as a group promulgated by the Buffalo Board of Education should not, as a group or as the DPCC, be sponsoring any candidate for the upcoming elections. It’s inherently a conflict of interest,” said Nate Kuzma, assistant legal counsel.
Some leaders of the DPCC, which is a subcommittee of the board and is led by Samuel L. Radford III, have said they would favor any candidate who supports a “parents agenda,” which includes support for community schools and teacher residency requirements.
Several of the board members weren’t shy in expressing their desire to punish the DPCC.
“We have to be careful how this is portrayed, but at the end of the day, Sam Radford has been allowed to be a loose cannon,” said Sharon Belton-Cottman. “One parent came up to me to say they don’t have a voice because [Radford’s] opinions are forced on them. Many are intimidated by him. I think that is a concern for all of the parents in this district.”
Jason McCarthy also said he’d heard from parents who said they felt Radford had “hijacked the group.”
Mary Ruth Kapsiak suggested the board’s Ethics Committee be tasked with examining DPCC’s involvement in School Board electoral politics. Radford said later, in response, that the School Board had it wrong. “The DPCC as an organization has already taken the position that we will not endorse any candidates. We have to work with whoever is elected, so it doesn’t make sense for us to alienate any particular candidate by endorsing them as the DPCC. It’s not our place to do that,” he said.
Philip Rumore, president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, said the union vote on teacher evaluations was done without enthusiasm. “It was done begrudgingly, because teachers do not like being evaluated based on student standardized tests that don’t measure creativity, critical thinking and that traumatize many of our students,” he said.