Buffalo Board of Education members voted, 8-1, Wednesday to approve the annual evaluation of Superintendent Pamela C. Brown even though board members didn’t have a final copy of it and nothing was shared with the public.
No general statement or reference was made by the board on whether the superintendent’s evaluation was positive or negative.
The lack of final documents troubled some board members, since it is not in keeping with the board’s past practice of issuing some summary comments and ratings regarding the superintendent’s performance.
“I can’t vote on something I haven’t seen,” said outgoing board member Louis J. Petrucci, who along with Rosalyn L. Taylor and Ralph R. Hernandez was attending his last board meeting Wednesday.
The evaluation is a month late in being approved. It was supposed to be completed by the end of May, but instead lingered incomplete for weeks more as board members talked behind closed doors for hours about what the evaluation should say.
“I think it has at least to go through counsel,” he said, “to make sure it’s not disclosing information that is otherwise privileged information under the superintendent’s contract and under other collective bargaining agreement.”
Board counsel Christopher M. Putrino said he hadn’t yet been given a copy of the document. “I would have to review the evaluation,” he said. “I would want to look at the structure of it and the contents of it.”
“I have a question,” interjected board member Sharon Belton-Cottman. “Why hasn’t this been done, handled, before now? Can someone explain to me why we’ve been working on this and it hasn’t been reviewed by legal counsel at this point? I want an explanation. I think we’re entitled to it.”
Hernandez, chairman of the executive committee, then threatened to withdraw his resolution to have the evaluation approved.
“Hearing what I just heard, this is news to me,” he said. “I’m going to withdraw my motion. There’s no reason why this board should be approving a document that it hasn’t read or been received.”
Brown and board President Mary Ruth Kapsiak said they both saw and signed a final evaluation document but had little explanation for why other board members didn’t have a copy.
“The contents in the document that Dr. Brown was presented was the same document that we had discussed in executive session,” Kapsiak said. “Nothing changed on that document.”
In the end, most board members agreed to approve the superintendent’s evaluation based on what they had agreed to in committee last week.
Petrucci cast the sole “no” vote, saying later that the superintendent’s evaluation is a paramount responsibility for the school board and should be provided in final form.
“It’s not something that should be rushed,” he said. “It has great impact on Dr. Brown and great impact on the district.” Putrino said he expected to make a determination on what can be released to the public in the next few days. In the past, the district has released summary evaluation information and narrative.
Incoming board member Carl P. Paladino, who will be joined on the new board by new members James M. Sampson and Theresa Harris-Tigg, was present at Wednesday’s meeting and criticized the board’s lack of transparency afterward.
He had his own evaluation of Superintendent Brown and released it in the form of an open letter to the school board where he once again unleashed verbal machine-gun fire to indict Brown, central administrators and board members. He described Brown as “aloof” and lacking “any discernible leadership skill” among other even harsher comments.
Paladino has repeatedly stated that his first and foremost mission as a board member will be to remove Brown as head of the district.
The Board of Education “touted her Ph.D. from Harvard, but a degree does not make a leader. A degree is what you complete. A District is what you lead. She had no history of supervisory skill,” he stated in his letter.
Paladino complained that she avoids communication with her own staff, as well as the media, and restated his contention that Brown breached her fiduciary duty in reaching a side deal with the Buffalo Teachers Federation regarding teacher evaluations.
“Why should our children suffer even one more day with the trial and error of a less than capable leader?” he stated.
Paladino said after Wednesday’s meeting that he had his open letter to the board ready for several weeks but was asked by certain community members to hold off on releasing it so that Brown could find a “soft landing” elsewhere.
He said that after having dinner with Brown two or three weeks ago, he felt bad for her and was willing to hold off. But Brown has since expressed no interest in leaving the district.
“She’s brilliant – fine,” he said. “That doesn’t mean she knows how to manage people.”