Today’s special school board meeting regarding the future leadership for Buffalo Public Schools may include the possibility of granting a three-month contract extension to interim Deputy Superintendent Mary E. Guinn.
Guinn, a former consultant who was hired at the end of February in a split board vote, has been responsible for day-to-day district affairs and was originally supposed to complete her work here on June 30.
But now, some board members are interested in extending her time as a district leader until the end of September, according to multiple school district sources.
Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold said Tuesday that she didn’t want to discuss any specifics regarding today’s 4 p.m. special board meeting. But she did say she doesn’t believe the board will take any immediate action regarding an interim superintendent, particularly since the board has no exit date for outgoing Superintendent Pamela Brown.
“I don’t think there should be a quick rush to appoint someone right away without some due diligence on the part of board members,” she said.
Many on the board, in the community and within the central administration see Guinn as a polarizing figure.
Guinn helped spearhead the implementation of Brown’s costly and controversial central office reorganization. She was also criticized for assuming authority as a consultant that many other top-level administrators considered unwarranted.
Her board supporters, however, are likely to argue that Guinn, among all top administrators, is most knowledgeable and best equipped to handle the day-to-day operations of the 34,000-student district as Brown’s current second-in-command.
If Guinn is granted a contract extension by the current board majority, the new board majority seated on July 1 would either have to live with that decision until the end of September or buy out her employment contract to remove her sooner.
Members of the new majority have indicated that they’d prefer to see Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operations Officer Barbara J. Smith take over for a very short period before hiring a longer-term interim superintendent who would serve as a district “change agent” for one or two years.
Either way, board members are expected to disagree as to who is best equipped to ensure the most seamless transition for a district that will soon be looking ahead to a new school year.
While there are some legal restrictions that prevent a lame duck school board from making decisions that would bind the next school board, the legal waters appear muddy when applied to Guinn’s situation.
Since Guinn was originally appointed as interim deputy superintendent for only four months – from early March through June 30 – it might be legally possible for the current board to extend Guinn’s contract for a few months more without running into any major legal snags.
The board would need to obtain more legal clarity today before members decide whether to press the case for Guinn’s extended employment.
Guinn is not the only matter slated for discussion by the board during its special meeting. The broader context is for the governing body to come up with a short-term game plan on how to proceed once Brown leaves the district. Her lawyer is currently in negotiations with the district on a separation agreement.
Transition planning could include discussions about how long the board may wish a temporary leader to serve and the process by which a temporary or interim leader should be chosen.
Despite earlier indications that the board would attempt to discuss all these matters behind closed doors in executive session, President Nevergold said Tuesday that she intends to hold the majority of the meeting in public.
“We will have an open session and open meeting,” she said.
The special meeting of the Buffalo School Board will be held at 4 p.m. in Room 801 of City Hall, followed by a regular board meeting at 5:30 p.m. The News will live blog all of today’s meetings at www.buffalonews.com/schoolzone