After repeated failed attempts by the Buffalo Board of Education to set evaluation goals for Superintendent Pamela C. Brown – which were due Sept. 1 – board members finally agreed Wednesday to let Brown come up with her own standards.
Brown suggested that her goals and evaluation be based on the goals outlined of the district’s approved comprehensive plan and five-year strategic plan.
“I would agree with that,” said board member Carl P. Paladino. “I think that would be a good process to follow.”
He added, however, that he still believes that Brown’s last evaluation was improperly done and invalid. Other board members disagreed.
Brown not only offered to develop specific goals for her own evaluation, but suggested that her evaluation be given in the approved evaluation format outlined in her employment contract, which the board apparently did not consult prior to drafting her evaluation this past year.
The superintendent said she would flesh out her evaluation goals with more detail for the board to review in a week’s time. The board then would be able to review her recommendations and make appropriate changes if needed.
Board member John B. Licata suggested, and Brown agreed, that the board give a midyear review of her performance in January. Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman also recommended that if board members rate Brown below a certain level, she should be provided with reasons for the low score.
In other committee business:
• Auditors from Freed Maxick provided an “unqualified” positive rating – the highest – on the district’s primary financial statements. However, the auditors also noted that for two years in a row, the district’s expenses exceeded revenues.
They also said that in a random sampling, they discovered that a number of employees whose positions are at least partially funded by Title I and other grants, are not completing required paperwork that verifies that they are doing the work the grants require.
District officials said that part of the problem is that the district uses a paper process to keep track of this grant-funded time and that some teachers aren’t bothering to fill out the required paperwork before the end of the school year and aren’t penalized for not completing it.
Chief Financial Officer Barbara J. Smith noted that the Rochester School District computerized this process and that Buffalo may do something similar.
Finally, auditors again expressed concern that the district is not properly accounting for at least $2.5 million received by students and student advisers as part of school club fundraising efforts, leaving the district susceptible to fraud.
• Smith said 2013-14 is the third year in a row the district is budgeting a deficit. The district has allowed for a $31 million operating deficit, but that was before millions more in new expenses were encumbered by the district.
Among these new expenses: costs associated with East and Lafayette high schools and their partnerships with Johns Hopkins University and Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the extension of the Middle Early College lease, and the student transfer plan that required the district to open up more classrooms.
The district also has not realized most of the $5 million in anticipated savings from consolidating underenrolled classes.
• Board members passionately discussed a resolution by Paladino to consider making a transition from a school-choice format to neighborhood schools. Paladino said parent involvement was integral to transforming failing schools.
While Paladino and Jason M. McCarthy advocated for it, Belton-Cottman said she wasn’t ready to “go back to segregation.” Theresa Harris-Tigg said all schools should be brought up to a high level of achievement before returning to neighborhood or community schools.
• Board members endured or participated in a hostile exchange with Paladino, who accused the superintendent of acting improperly on her Central Office reorganization and accused Belton-Cottman of “lying.” Belton-Cottman and others responded that Paladino’s “bullying,” “interrogation” and “immature behavior” should cease.