Even before they hold their first business meeting, members of the Buffalo School Board are positioning themselves along familiar lines on opposite sides of a critical decision.
Members who now make up the minority on the board are taking issue with the new majority’s plan to hire Donald A. Ogilvie as interim superintendent, saying the decision was made behind closed doors without input from other board members and the community.
“I’m speechless,” said board member Mary Ruth Kapsiak. “I’ve never heard of a president bringing a contract before the board with no discussion with the full board. That’s unheard of. We’ve talked in the past about transparency. This is as in the dark as any board member could be.”
The new majority had called for an open and transparent process that allowed parents, community members and other key stakeholders to weigh in.
But last weekend, board President James M. Sampson sent board members an email notifying them that he planned to bring a contract for Ogilvie up for a vote at Wednesday’s meeting.
Members of the new majority defend that plan, saying they wanted to work with everyone on the board to conduct a search before the newly elected members were sworn in last Tuesday. They appealed to their colleagues on the board to allow new members Larry Quinn and Patti Bowers Pierce to participate in that process, but those who controlled the board before the changeover refused.
“The truth is, I reached out to a number of people to have a proper transition,” Quinn said. “I was basically told, ‘It’s none of your business; wait till July.’ We had two months to do this, and the decision was made. You can’t cry about it now and say you weren’t included.”
Sampson said several potential candidates reached out to the board. Members of the new majority felt that Ogilvie had the qualifications they wanted. Time is critical, he said, and the district could not afford to wait for the new members to take office to start the process.
Still, those board members who now make up the minority say their colleagues are now doing the same things they were once criticized for when they held control of the board.
“If this had happened in the past, it would have been blasted all over the news,” Kapsiak said.
“At the end of the day, it’s not good governance, and it’s certainly not transparent,” board member Sharon M. Belton-Cottman said. “Why would you not allow any candidate to be vetted by the public?”