Longtime educator Donald A. Ogilvie has never worked for the Buffalo Board of Education, but he knows quite a bit about it.
The soon-to-be-appointed interim superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools has conducted research, made observations and provided recommendations to the district on how to deal with its underachieving schools and administrators, educators and personnel who do not get along.
In 2010, Ogilvie led a team of reviewers who assessed – at the request of then-Superintendent James A. Williams – what were at the time the district’s seven persistently lowest-achieving schools. In it, the Joint Intervention Team, under Ogilvie, made it clear that schools were not getting a good, sound, basic education, said Robert M. Bennett, chancellor emeritus of the state Board of Regents.
Some district officials were not happy about the scathing report, which harshly criticized the administration.
“The report reflected reality and statements from people in schools and reflected up-close observations about what was happening in schools, and it was very disturbing, and it was very counterproductive,” said Bennett, who read the report twice.
In addition to a report on each of the schools, Ogilvie wrote a six-page letter outlining systemic issues affecting city schools. He harshly criticized what he called a culture of distrust and disrespect in the schools, calling for administrators, teachers, union leaders and others in the system to figure out how to work collaboratively to improve the schools.
It may not have been what some school leaders at the time wanted to hear. Williams withheld Ogilvie’s letter from the School Board until the Regent directed the state Education Department to release a copy to the board president.
Not a whole lot has changed since then, in Bennett’s opinion.
“We’re still very close to that report today. I think the situation in some key schools is still fairly troubled, and it’s way beyond what state assessments” reveal, he said, pointing to low attendance issues districtwide and the fact that career preparation “hasn’t grown as it should have.”
Ogilvie, who is a liaison to the state Education Department for 19 local school districts, began his career 43 years ago as a teacher in Williamsville Central School District. He also served as a principal at Herbert Hoover Elementary School in the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District.
Most recently, Ogilvie had been district superintendent of Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services from April 1997 to June 2014.
In that role, he oversaw the Western New York Regional Information Center, which provides education programs and services to more than 100 school districts in seven counties in Western New York. Also during his time at Erie 1 BOCES, Ogilvie helped conduct 30 superintendent searches for local districts, helped guide the expansion and renovation of several BOCES education sites, including the Workforce Development Center in Cheektowaga, and he helped consolidate payroll processing and other central business office services among school districts.
Ogilvie also had a role in expanding BOCES career and technology classes to students at East and Lafayette high schools in Buffalo last year.
Between 1981 and 1997, prior to BOCES, Ogilvie had served tenures as superintendent in the Hamburg Central, Southwestern Central and Chadwicks school districts.