Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown assured community members Friday night that “not a moment has been wasted” during her tenure and that the district is in “a much better place today than it was two years ago.”
At a forum attended by about 60 people, Brown presented a list of accomplishments in the district during her two years in charge.
The meeting, held at New Covenant United Church of Christ on Clinton Street, was meant to be a conversation about the status of the district and the steps needed to move forward in the wake of Brown’s upcoming departure.
But those in attendance used the forum to celebrate Brown’s career in Buffalo.
Many shook with frustration as they spoke, saying the sole reason the white, male members of the Board of Education pressured Brown to resign was because of her race.
Speaker after speaker called Brown’s critics on the board “inhumane” and “racist.”
Many said Brown’s critics ignored her Harvard education, professional experience and the progress she has made leading the 34,000-student district.
Two speakers blamed the black community for Brown being forced out.
They said if more of her supporters would have voted in the School Board elections in May, there would not have been a majority of board members against her on the new board taking over July 1.
Brown, who announced her decision to resign May 16, emphasized the district’s achievements during her tenure. They include:
• The graduation rate improved from 47.8 percent in 2012 to 56 percent in 2013.
• High school graduates attending college rose from 57 percent in 2012 to 66 percent in 2013.
• Chronic absenteeism dropped from 28.4 percent in 2012 to 23.5 percent in 2013.
• The dropout rate fell from 30.4 percent in 2011 to 23.4 percent in 2013.
One person in the audience asked Brown what has surprised her the most while in Buffalo.
“When I started to see clear evidence that progress was being made, oh my goodness, I was overjoyed,” Brown answered. “I was only too happy to begin to share it with the public. ... So the thing that has been the greatest surprise to me is that, for some reason, those indications of progress are hard for people to hear. And somehow, they get lost.”
Brown’s critics on the Board of Education say she has not been aggressive enough in fixing and stabilizing the district.
Her supporters on the board – board President Barbara Seals Nevergold, Sharon Belton-Cottman, Theresa Harris-Tigg, Florence Johnson and Mary Ruth Kapsiak – helped organize Friday evening’s forum.
Brown said the district is well on track to reach an 80 percent graduation rate, particularly because of initiatives she has helped put into place, including a more rigorous curriculum, a new code of conduct, a more equitable budget to allocate resources, a new focus on science and technology and new school improvement grants, among others.
In the meantime, Brown said she is focused on what she’s been focused on since her arrival in Buffalo: the students.