Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown said this afternoon that she is ready to leave her post.
“Due to the recent, persistent and baseless allegations about my suitability for the position of superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, after much thought, I have determined that it is in the best interest of the children of this district, the community and myself that I attempt to reach an amicable agreement with the School Board for my departure,” Brown said.
Brown’s lawyer has already reached out to the Buffalo School Board to discuss terms for her resignation. Faced with a new board majority in July that is prepared to fire her, Brown is looking for a “graceful exit” that would avoid a career-damaging vote for her dismissal.
At a hastily called media briefing, she defended her record as leader of the struggling 34,000-student district by saying her educational background and professional experience “are well documented.”
“I am extremely proud of everything my team has accomplished on behalf of all of our students, working closely with our stakeholders,” she said, her voice quavering with emotion.
Brown took no questions.
She reiterated a number of achievements she felt the district has made under her two-year tenure.
“Despite all this progress,” she said, “it is clear that a segment of the School Board desires new leadership. Therefore, I am hopeful that we will be able to reach an amicable agreement that will ensure a smooth, fair and civil transition.”
On Wednesday, education lawyer Karl Kristoff told board members in a closed session that he had heard from Brown’s lawyer and wanted permission to continue conversations about possible resignation terms.
Brown would likely want to settle matters under the current board majority, rather than string negotiations out until July, when she would have to deal with a less sympathetic leadership. If that happens, however, the new board would still likely consider a mutually beneficial agreement to part ways.
Board member James Sampson, who is soliciting support to become the next board president, called Brown’s departure “inevitable” and said the board should “sit down and see what works for her and what works for us.”
“It’s a question of how it’s going to happen,” he said.
Despite assertions by board member Carl Paladino that he will try to have Brown fired at the new board’s first meeting in July, the termination of the superintendent requires a lengthier legal process.
Brown’s employment contract has more than six pages devoted to ways she could lose her job and how that would occur. Paladino and others have expressed an interest in removing Brown under the “no fault” clause, which would require the district to pay Brown the equivalent of one-year’s salary, or $217,500.
But a most likely path, as stated by Brown, would be for the superintendent to leave by “mutual agreement,” meaning that she would resign under specific terms agreed to by the board.
Such a separation agreement would include three main elements:
• An explicit resignation from the superintendent and effective resignation date,
• Money or other “consideration” that would be given to the superintendent in exchange for her resignation,
• And a series of releases and waivers that essentially promise that Brown would not the sue the district for any reason.
When former Superintendent James Williams reached a buyout deal with the school board in 2011, the terms of his separation agreement stated that he would receive $110,000 – equal to six months salary – plus $10,000 for consulting fees and additional money for unused vacation time.
Last week, Brown side-stepped questions about her future in the district since last week’s election, which swept in anti-Brown candidates Larry Quinn and Patti Bowers Pierce. Though she has been superintendent for only two years, she has weathered mounting controversy and criticism, particularly since last summer.
The board expects to get an update from Kristoff next week regarding the status of separation agreement talks.