Transparency on the Buffalo School Board became a showcase issue Wednesday when maverick board member Carl Paladino was originally denied the ability to bring his multiple resolutions before the board after being promised he could. Board member James Sampson was also initially denied an opportunity to present his resolution on – not coincidentally – improving board transparency.
Sampson’s resolution was written to address multiple criticisms regarding how the board and district share information with the public. His resolution would have required the board to hold its meetings in easily accessible schools, post all agenda materials on the district website, and live-stream and live-blog all board meetings online.
Paladino, meanwhile, sought to raise a number of issues, including: employment of consultant and former interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn, resurrecting neighborhood schools, analyzing retiree health insurance costs, changing the district’s tenure approval policy, and involving police in all incidents of bullying and other violence.
Both board members had been promised at the last regular board meeting Aug. 21 that the resolutions that they had submitted for board consideration would be taken up at the next regular meeting because the Aug. 21 meeting ran so late into the evening.
But shortly after Wednesday’s meeting began, board President Barbara Seals Nevergold announced that in order for Paladino’s and Sampson’s resolutions to be considered by the board, two-thirds of the board would be required to vote the resolutions onto the agenda – six out of nine members.
That has not been part of any recent past practice by the School Board. Until Wednesday, any board member who wished to raise a resolution for consideration was free to do so after the regular agenda was concluded. This has been the practice even though board member resolutions are never listed on the agenda, a practice that often confuses members of the public attending board meetings.
Nevergold stated that the board “didn’t operate properly before” but that the board would now be in compliance with its own rules. The requirement was necessary, she said, even though both Sampson and Paladino had submitted their resolutions more than 48 hours in advance, as is required.
Nothing The Buffalo News could find in board rules Wednesday night indicated that any two-thirds “supermajority” vote is required for board member resolutions to be added to the agenda.
Based on Nevergold’s declaration, however, neither Sampson nor Paladino could muster the necessary six votes to get their resolutions considered.
Paladino later met privately with Nevergold outside of board chambers. As a result, the board president announced that the board would keep its original Aug. 21 promise to allow both men to bring their resolutions forward.
Paladino ultimately brought forward at least half a dozen resolutions, which resulted in an hour of charged, frustrating and often confused discussion among board members. Some of his resolutions were adjusted and amended, and many were ultimately sent to committees for more discussion and more information gathering.
“I’m not looking to complicate things,” Paladino said.
“Too late, responded board member John Licata.
Though none of Paladino’s resolutions was discussed at last week’s board meeting, Nevergold and other committee heads said this was an oversight and that all his resolutions would be taken up in future committee meetings.
Sampson’s resolution on board transparency was referred to the board’s Finance and Operations Committee for further discussion because Nevergold said that there may be costs to the district associated with holding board meetings in school buildings.
In particular, she said, while some schools may have the technical ability to support recording and sound system devices, it costs the district money to keep buildings open and heated after hours.
The meeting ended at about 10:45 p.m. following a lengthy private session to discuss litigation and personnel matters.