Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown is delaying her plans to meet with the state Education Department by one day in order to accept an invitation to meet with President Obama on Thursday.
Brown and her staff were originally expected to head out to Albany on Thursday after receiving a directive from State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. to meet with state administrators this week and finalize turnaround plans for four schools.
King gave the directive after determining that the turnaround plans for East and Lafayette high schools, as well as grant applications for Buffalo Elementary School of Technology and Highgate Heights School 80, were still too weak to be approved by the Education Department.
The repeated rejections of the district’s proposals for these schools resulted in a rare move by King, who instructed Buffalo school administrators to come to Albany “to complete their submission with on-site guidance and technical assistance” from the state.
That visit was supposed to occur Thursday, but Brown was subsequently asked to be part of a small group of local leaders who were extended invitations to meet with Obama during his visit here, The Buffalo News has learned.
The invitation does not guarantee Brown a meeting with the president, but she is going through the vetting process.
Brown was also expected to be the keynote speaker at a local Read to Succeed fundraiser Thursday night.
In light of those commitments, she requested that the scheduled meeting between Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Slentz and her and her staff be postponed a day. Slentz agreed.
In the meantime, district officials are continuing to revise their plans for East, Lafayette, BEST and School 80.
Revisions are being shared with the state.
Sources said that process is expected to continue all week so that by the time Brown and her staff head to Albany on Friday, any additional adjustments will, ideally, be minor.
School Board members were divided on whether it’s appropriate for Brown to delay her visit to the state Education Department by a day, given the chance to meet with the president versus the need to meet with the state to draft acceptable school turnaround plans.
“If this wasn’t at such a critical stage, if they hadn’t been turned down four times already, and if this wasn’t two weeks before school’s supposed to start, then I’d say, ‘Hey, can you give me a delay?’ ” said board member Carl Paladino.
“But I just think making the request at a critical time like this is just inappropriate. It’s just indicative of how the superintendent sets her priorities.”
Other board members said they don’t blame Brown for wanting a chance to meet with the commander-in-chief.
“I feel if she has the opportunity to meet with the president, she should meet with the president,” said board member Sharon Belton-Cottman. “Maybe she can network in a short period of time with people that can help this district.”