Donald Ogilvie has all the makings of a fine superintendent, interim or otherwise, for Buffalo. He doesn’t have experience in a large, urban school district but he brings so much else to the table – and brings it quickly – that it shouldn’t be a major issue.
What some people are complaining about, though – and what deserves some discussion – is the manner in which Ogilvie’s appointment as interim superintendent is occurring. Some members of the School Board’s new minority bloc are complaining about a lack of transparency in the process.
It’s hard to believe that any of them didn’t expect Ogilvie to be appointed, but nonetheless, they were formally notified of the plan to submit a contract for approval only a few days ago, and with the intent of voting on it at tonight’s meeting. To some, in fact, it may smack of the former majority’s action in sandbagging the board with the surprise announcement that Mary Guinn would be rehired as interim deputy superintendent.
There are differences, though – enough to accept the imperfect process of hiring Ogilvie. Even still, as the School Board begins what is expected to be a lengthy task of finding a permanent successor to the recently departed Pamela C. Brown, the process should be as open and inclusive as possible.
The situation the board’s majority confronted in its decision to hire Ogilvie began with the outgoing board’s refusal to allow newly elected but still-unseated members to take part in any discussions regarding the hiring of a long-term interim superintendent. With Brown’s exit, Will Keresztes was appointed on a temporary basis, but the problems in the district are such that the board needed to move quickly. If the members of the former majority were truly concerned about openness and inclusion, they should have begun the process last month and included the newly elected members.
That is a far different set of circumstances from the sneaky way the former majority announced plans to rehire Guinn – at the very meeting at which the vote occurred. Indeed, it takes some of the righteousness out of their current state of indignation. They, at least, were given advance notice of the plan to offer a contract; the matter truly is urgent; and Ogilvie is eminently qualified to steer the district until a long-term successor is named.
Still, it’s not the ideal way to proceed. The board’s task now will be to give Ogilvie the support he needs to do the crucial work of running the district, mending relations with Albany and, most of all, delivering to Buffalo students the education to which they are constitutionally entitled.
That’s important not just to Buffalo, but to all of Erie County. Buffalo can’t thrive without a school district that parents can trust, and the rest of the county can’t perform at peak levels if the city at its heart is sputtering.
As the board begins the task of identifying the qualities it wants in a permanent successor, and of searching for that person, it should conduct that process openly, consistent with state law, and ensure that all board members are heard from.
The minority members may complain – for the most part unjustly - about the process of hiring Ogilvie, but they may be on firmer ground if, with lots of time to do the job, they are not fully involved in the important tasks ahead.