Pamela C. Brown has been thrown a lifeline. She should grab it and go.
The Buffalo school superintendent has been a disappointment in many ways, enough so that many private-sector leaders, and perhaps some in the public sector, have banded together in an effort to help her out the door. They are urging Brown to take a half-million-dollar buyout – far more than she will receive if, after the May School Board elections, there are enough votes to dismiss her.
Indeed, there seems little chance that Brown will last another year in this position. The business community has concluded that she doesn’t have the skills the school district needs. Some in that group, reportedly including Robert D. Gioia, president of the Oishei Foundation, and M&T Bank CEO Robert G. Wilmers, are leading the effort to supplement the $217,500 – a year’s salary – she is entitled to if dismissed without cause with more than a year left on her contract.
If she takes a buyout before the end of July, when she would have less than a year left on her contract, she would get the year’s salary plus any additional money that sweetens the offer. After that, she could be dismissed and receive nothing. That’s a real possibility.
Beyond that, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has pledged to take on under-performing schools next year. His ideas, he has previously said, will be made clear in his Jan. 8 State of the State address. He will, no doubt, have Buffalo in mind.
The case for Brown’s dismissal is clear. Critics complain about a lack of communication, rash decisions that take others by surprise, lack of progress at several schools and the district’s inability to submit required plans that meet state standards.
In response to the buyout offer, Brown – who insists she will not voluntarily leave – notes that suspensions and chronic absenteeism are down, while the graduation rate is up along with the percentage of students passing state English and math exams in the 11th grade.
Even assuming all of that to be accurate – the state is still auditing the graduation rate – if Brown could do that, what more could be done by a superintendent who communicates, makes thoughtful decisions, improves the worst schools and performs up to state standards?
Brown needs to acknowledge that this simply isn’t a good fit. She should take the half-million and find a position where her talents suit the circumstances. That’s not here.