Members of the new Buffalo Board of Education majority have been connecting with some of the biggest players on the state’s education scene to try to curry support for their ambitious reform agenda. Buy-in from the following people will be critical to executing the plans that have been put forward.
State Education Commissioner
The district has historically had an adversarial relationship with the state Education Department, with leaders consistently failing to bring schools in compliance with state guidelines. Now, one of the components of the board majority’s plan is to turn some of its schools over to the state. That would require a change in state law, along with the willingness of state education leaders.
Buffalo Teachers Federation President
Buffalo teachers have been working under the same contract for roughly a decade, and negotiations for a new one are overdue. Board members say they hope to get concessions, primarily in health care and benefits. Some believe the board majority is using the threat of more charter schools as leverage in bargaining. What happens in negotiations, however, hangs on Rumore, one of the most influential union leaders in the state.
President of the Northeast Charter Schools Network
Phillips oversees the network of charter schools that operate in New York State, an organization that serves as a lobbying group for charters. He could have influence helping the board court more charter schools. But he has cautioned that those schools will need assurances building space is available. The network has been pushing for the state to start giving building aid to charter schools and could use Buffalo’s interest as leverage.
President of the District Parent Coordinating Council
Radford runs the district’s most prominent parent organization, which has played a key role fighting for increased parent rights, holding the district accountable and making sure it is in compliance with state laws and regulations. The council has demonstrated the power parents have shaping district programs and policy, so having a strong working relationship with the group will be important.
Ultimately, executing – or changing – the board majority’s strategic vision will fall to the new interim superintendent. Ogilvie is a well-respected figure both locally and statewide, and he brings decades of experience and knowledge in education issues to the position. Ogilvie says his goal is to stabilize the district and set the course for the district’s future.
– Tiffany Lankes