Ousted Buffalo Schools consultant Mary E. Guinn is back.
In a move that was called bad governance and lack of transparency, Buffalo Schools Superintendent Pamela C. Brown recommended late in Wednesday night’s board meeting to bring back Mary E.Guinn as deputy superintendent.
The resolution – which passed five to three along racial and gender lines – calls for the appointment of Guinn to the position of interim deputy superintendent at a salary of $175,000. Guinn has a New York State professional certification as a school district leader, Brown said.
Brown presented the recommendation at the end of the meeting when most of the spectators and news reporters had already left. And board members said they did not have prior knowledge of the recommendation.
Some board members, including Theresa Harris-Tigg, spoke in favor of the move.
“It’s important that the leader pick her number two person,” she said.
“She has a lot of qualifications,” said Sharon Belton Cottman
Others board members were very upset.
“I appreciate the fact that the superintendent has the ability to bring late items to the board, but I don’t think it’s good governance. It’s not good practice,” said Board member James Sampson. “Board members should have known 48 hours before the meeting about the superintendent’s recommendation. Instead it was brought before the board at the last minute in front of a near empty room at the end of the meeting.”
Sampson added that he did not support bringing bak Guinn on an interim basis.
“I think we need a permanent person, and I do not believe Mary Guinn is indispensable,” Sampson added.
Board member John Licata said he understands that Brown can hire her own staff, “but why do we have to vote on it tonight?”
He suggested waiting until the next board meeting in two weeks to give board members and the public a chance to review the recommendation and Guinn’s qualifications for the job. The majority of the board did not agree.
Board member Carl Paladino also took issue with Brown for bringing forward her recommendation without prior notice to the board.
Guinn was not the right person for the job, he added, because she “deceived” the board as to what her performance and activities were while acting as a leadership consultant.
“We have a tape of the meeting,” Paladino said.
“It is an insult you would even suggest bringing this woman back,” he added.
Guinn began serving as interim deputy superintendent in March 2013, though not employed directly by the district. Her employer was Cross & Joftus education consulting firm. Guinn’s Cross & Joftus salary was covered by grants from the John R. Oishei Foundation, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and Say Yes to Education. Her responsibilities included assisting in the search for a permanent deputy superintendent. The district interviewed a number of applicants without hiring.
Instead, Brown asked Guinn to stay in the district as a consultant and agreed to pay her $290,359 – $72,000 more than the superintendent makes – for a year, plus travel and lodging expenses.
Then last fall, Guinn came under increasing criticism for both her salary and her role in the district. Board members expressed concerns that she seemed to be assuming responsibilities for daily operations beyond her consultant role.
The school board voted last October to terminate the Cross & Joftus contract but to keep Guinn on for 90 days to finish up her work with the district, Licata said.
Back in October, Brown said she had no plans to hire Guinn as her new second-in-command for Buffalo Schools.
“There it not a plan for her to serve in an interim deputy role ,” she said at the time.
She apparently changed her mind.
In addition to Harris-Tigg and Belton Cottman, Florence Johnson, Mary Kapsiak and Board President Barbara Nevergold - all of them African American women - voted in favor of bringing Guinn back.
The white men on the board Licata, Paladino and Sampson voted against it.
Jason McCarthy had an excused absence.