Buffalo School Board members should not sign any document, unless it’s urgent, until after the May elections, and maybe not until a new board is seated in July.
Superintendent Pamela C. Brown’s judgment is untrustworthy. Better to wait for a newly elected board in less than a month, when it is likely that she will be replaced. Indeed, with all that has occurred in recent weeks, it shouldn’t have to wait until then. Surely one of the board members who voted to retain her last year has, by this time, seen the light.
But people become locked into their positions. That’s a fact of life. For that reason, barring critical matters – legally required documents, urgent matters of safety, etc. – the board should take no significant actions until after the elections. To do otherwise is to risk ensnaring the district in a contract that is the product of the superintendent’s unseemly manipulation.
Here’s the latest: The consulting firm that once employed three high-ranking and controversial school administrators, two of whom were fired Wednesday, could make as much as $90,000 from a new contract. This is despite the fact that the district’s own review team rated it in the middle of the pack of 11 firms competing for the job.
The Arizona-based Evans Newton Inc. has become one of the familiar names associated with the district and its troubles. It once employed Interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn, Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander.
Williams and Alexander were fired this week because they lacked the required certifications to do their jobs. Guinn’s appearance in the school district as a highly paid consultant under another firm and then reappearance in the district as interim deputy without the board’s knowledge caused its own stir.
However coincidental, or not, the thread that connects all three traces back to Evans Newton. The educational firm is back in the news. It was also recommended to be the “turnaround specialist” at nine of the city’s troubled schools. Problem is, School Board members say the documents presented to them for a vote never listed the company. They say the name of the turnaround specialist was left as “TBD,” or to be determined, on the documents they approved, but that Evans Newton was inserted by the time the forms were submitted to the state for approval.
Evans Newton was one of several organizations that responded to the request for proposals, according to Brown, who said it indicated it could provide services in leadership coaching. The superintendent went on to say that the district was looking at bids with respect to different coaching leadership models. Evans Newton not only had the model the district deemed most beneficial, but it also had the lowest qualified bid.
There’s still time. Brown said that the district is in the process of determining which organization would provide leadership coaching for administrators in the nine schools. The board voted on preliminary recommendations.
This all has to do with a request for proposals for a company to serve as a “turnaround specialist” to train teachers at these nine trouble schools: D’Youville Porter Campus, Early Childhood Center, East High, Frank A. Sedita Elementary, Hamlin Park, Harvey Austin, Lafayette High, West Hertel Academy and Stanley M. Makowski Early Childhood Center.
Evans Newton was among 11 companies that responded to the request, and the district’s review committee rated it in the middle of the pack. Board members were supposed to vote on the documents Feb. 12 but thankfully hesitated because the members had not been given the applications beforehand for review. They said they received the applications before a special meeting Feb. 19, but none of those school improvement grant papers had the name Evans Newton on them.
Brown continues to engage in subterfuge with the School Board and public. When does it stop? That’s right, when the new board gets seated. Brown’s ouster should come sooner.