Buffalo School Board members spent an hour Wednesday afternoon talking about a leadership transition plan for the district once Superintendent Pamela Brown leaves. But when the dust settled, all that was clear was that divisiveness remains the board’s natural state.
Meanwhile, the board also received a letter from the state Education Department Wednesday that will displace roughly 100 more children at Martin Luther King School 39 and put another dent in the district’s plans to convert MLK into the Medical Campus High School.
In regard to the district’s leadership needs, members of the current board majority espoused naming Mary Guinn as interim superintendent for a few months. Though board members generally refrained from naming names because the meeting was held in public, Guinn was the obvious point of reference in comments made by board leaders.
“We cannot afford to have someone come in who has to be brought up to speed on what is going on in the district right now,” said board member Mary Ruth Kapsiak.
She and others indicated that as current interim deputy superintendent, Guinn may be in the best position to lend stability to the district and shepherd through critical projects until the new board to be seated in July eventually names a longer-term successor.
“We have many things that have to be accomplished, many, many serious activities and mandates that have to be addressed, that are not going to stop, not going to go away,” said President Barbara Nevergold.
Board minority members James Sampson, Jason McCarthy and Carl Paladino, who will be in the majority come July, continued to state the position that if Brown resigns before July 1, the board should name an interim superintendent who would be contracted to serve only until the new board is seated.
And that person should not be Guinn, they said, describing her as a noncritical player who is still relatively new to the district.
The board minority has been interested in seeing Chief Financial Officer Barbara Smith assume the interim superintendent’s job for a few weeks until the new board can select another interim superintendent who would hold the position for one to two years.
Outgoing board member John Licata suggested the board solicit resumes from anyone interested in the interim superintendent position, but whoever is selected should be chosen in consultation with the incoming board members.
Otherwise, he said, the board could wind up deciding on someone, only to have that decision immediately undone when the new board takes over in July.
He and other board members also restated the obvious – that if a separation agreement with Superintendent Pamela Brown isn’t reached by July 1, “this entire conversation is moot.”
Brown was out of town and did not attend Wednesday’s meeting because her sister died.
Paladino said it’s a mistake to invite people to express interest in the interim superintendent’s position “rather than us setting out the parameters of what we’d be interested and going out and seeking an individual who meets those parameters.”
Board members directed the district’s human resources administrator to compile a list of all staff who currently have the certification to serve as interim superintendent. That state certification, either “school district administrator” or “school district leader,” is held by many administrators and quite a few teachers in the district.
Though Guinn comes from out of state, she also possesses school district leader certification.
Both sides stated that when the new board is seated, there should be a more thorough vetting process before selecting a longer-term interim superintendent who would serve for a year or longer.
“This is going to be a tough lift,” Sampson said.
During the regular board meeting that followed the leadership transition discussion, board members briefly discussed the latest directive from the state Education Department regarding the changeover of Martin Luther King School 39 to the new Medical Campus High School.
The district had originally planned to house a middle school program and a high school program at the new school, which would serve children in grades five through 12, with incoming students accepted for grades five and six, as well as grades nine and 10.
But the state axed the middle school program as being too ambitious.
That means all of the current fourth and fifth graders at MLK who had hoped to remain at their school as rising fifth and sixth graders will now be forced to transfer. Administrators estimated that between 100 and 125 students will be affected, bringing the total number of displaced MLK children to roughly 500.
Affected parents should be contacted at the end of this week regarding the news. Central registration staffers will also return to MLK to assist families who need help transferring their children elsewhere, administrators said.
For a complete breakdown of Wednesday’s meetings, review the live blog at www.buffalonews.com/schoolzone