Carl P. Paladino believes turning around the Buffalo Public Schools should begin with bringing in a superintendent with a proven record of making significant progress in an urban district.
To do that, he proposes that the district offer a $500,000 signing bonus to the best candidate.
“You go out and hire the best. That’s what you do,” Paladino said. “You steal them. And how do you do that? You wave money in their face. That’s smart money for the district.”
Although the district faces a perennial deficit, Paladino said the money could come from savings on transportation that would be realized if the board returns to neighborhood schools for elementary school students.
Next, all of the high-ranking administrators in City Hall should be replaced, he said.
“I want to see the entire executive staff of people fired. I want appointments to be made on merit, not on the friends and family club,” he said. “I’m going to go on the board, offer my suggestions, demand total transparency and demand the truth.”
Beyond that, Paladino has a list of 19 goals that he says accounts for just some of the changes that need to be made in the district.
Among those goals is settling a contract with the Buffalo Teachers Federation, whose contract expired nine years ago.
“The teachers want a contract. I want to give them a contract,” he said. “They’ll get a pay raise. And we’ll buy longer school days and longer school years from them with that raise.”
Among other things the district should do, Paladino said: remove chronically disruptive students from schools and put them in a separate program; provide more counseling for students by using college interns; and improve the district’s athletics program.
The district should also consolidate its 59 schools to 50, he said, given the falling enrollment.
Paladino is calling for the district to open an office to coordinate its dealings with charter schools and wants the district to offer to sell its former schools, many of which are now vacant, to charter schools.
He is continuing his call for charter boarding schools for at-risk students, something that has been done in other cities. But Paladino wants to see those boarding schools in Buffalo serve children as young as 6; in other places, such schools are designed for high school students.
For several years, Paladino has been the district’s most vocal and confrontational critic, someone who seems to pride himself on being something of a lone wolf. He frequently rails against the board during his allotted three minutes of public comment at meetings – describing members as “parasitic incompetent hijackers”; and sometimes deriding “the sisterhood,” a term referring to the black women on the board.
He also gained notoriety when, during his campaign for governor, it was revealed that he had forwarded email cartoons many described as racist. Paladino insists the forwarded emails were merely humorous and have no bearing on his ability to improve education in a heavily minority district.
He says he realizes that if he is elected and wants to make changes in the district, he will have to modify his role as a vocal and abrasive gadfly to that of one board member among nine who is able to build working coalitions. He says he thinks he can do that.
“I’ve sat on many boards in my life,” he said. “I have a way of co-opting people, changing people, and I’ll be successful. I can do things other people can’t do.”
As the chairman of Ellicott Development, Paladino has built or developed three local charter schools – Tapestry, West Buffalo and Health Sciences. He says he will recuse himself from any votes about future charter schools if he is elected to the board.
Paladino, 66, attended a public elementary school, then Bishop Timon High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and a law degree from Syracuse University.
His three older children attended private schools, as does his younger daughter, who attends Nardin Academy.
Paladino spent $10,000 of his own money on his campaign – half of it for radio ads – and had not accepted donations from anyone else as of early April, when he filed his first financial disclosure. If he is elected, he said, he will stay on the board as long as necessary to accomplish his goals – whether that’s “one term, two terms or less than one term.”
He paraphrased a couple of lines from the movie “Nanny McPhee” in explaining his thinking. “Her line was, when you need me but don’t want me, then I’ll be there,” he said. “When you want me but don’t need me, I’ve got other things to do.”