The Buffalo Board of Education isn't ready to announce its choice for superintendent -- partly because its nine members are trying to work things out privately so that the announcement, once it's made, will be ushered in with a unanimous vote.
"The board has a desire to come up with a consensus candidate. So we are working towards coming to that consensus," board President Louis J. Petrucci said. "I can't guarantee that will happen, but that would be our ideal situation."
He also said the board wants to finalize terms of the contract with the new superintendent before announcing its choice. The board met privately for more than two hours Wednesday night with Karl W. Kristoff, an attorney with Hodgson Russ whom the board brings in to handle such contract issues.
Board members won't say which of two likely candidates -- interim Superintendent Amber M. Dixon or former Philadelphia Assistant Superintendent Pamela C. Brown -- has a majority of the board supporting her.
But a number of signs point to Brown as the board's choice:
*The board seems to be laying the groundwork for justifying whatever salary it offers the new superintendent -- and one that seems likely to be over $225,000.
When Dixon accepted the job as interim superintendent, she agreed to a salary of $175,000 -- $45,000 less than what Superintendent James A. Williams was making when he resigned last year -- as a matter of principle.
"We're asking parents to make do with bigger classes, and we're asking bargaining units to make concessions they've never made," Dixon said at the time. "I'd like to lead by example."
During a news conference Wednesday, one board member pointed out that superintendents who were hired in Clarence and Williamsville in the last year are making in the neighborhood of $200,000 -- she cited numbers over $225,000, although their base salaries are more like $200,000 -- even though those districts have nowhere near as many students as Buffalo.
"You've got to look at providing a salary that's commensurate with the responsibilities," at-large member Florence D. Johnson said.
*A source said Dixon has canceled meetings that were scheduled well in advance.
*Midway through Wednesday night's board meeting, while the board was in executive session with Kristoff, Dixon left and didn't return.
*A reporter asked whether the new superintendent, if it was not Dixon, would enroll in the state's retirement system. (As a longtime district employee, Dixon already is part of the state system.) "That's part of the negotiation," Petrucci said. "That is one of the details that would have to be worked out as we move forward."
*Similarly, when asked if the board planned to visit the home district of the next superintendent -- if an external candidate is chosen -- Petrucci and board Vice President Rosalyn L. Taylor said no decision has yet been reached but acknowledged the board is talking about what to do.
"It's one of the things under discussion right now," Petrucci said, "whether we would visit -- and, if we do, who would visit, if the board was to feel that was a necessary step."