Buffalo City Schools Superintendent Pamela C. Brown held onto her job Tuesday by just one vote among the nine members of the School Board.
The board voted 5-4 against board member Carl Paladino’s resolution to terminate Brown without cause.
She maintains her position as head of the largest school district in Western New York, though the vote reflects a lack of confidence on the part of nearly half of the governing body to which she she answers.
Board members Paladino, James Sampson, Jason McCarthy and John Licata voted for her dismissal, while President Barbara Seals Nevergold and members Sharon Belton-Cottman, Florence Johnson, Mary Ruth Kapsiak and Theresa Harris-Tigg voted against it.
Prior to the vote, Brown made an impassioned speech regarding her tenure. She noted her excitement in coming to the district, the severe problems she discovered and the many efforts she has made to improve the district since her hiring a year ago.
“I said, ‘This is a call to action,’” Brown said. “‘We must put forth our best effort.’”
She added, “Instead of all the infighting and disagreement and all of this, we should be acknowledging the progress we’ve made in this district.”
Those in favor of the resolution, however, said they can’t wait for Brown “to develop the skills the district needs to move forward successfully.” Those who voted in favor of Brown’s dismissal said the district’s children don’t have time to wait for Brown to develop the leadership skills the district needs.
“Despite what many think, I don’t bring this motion lightly,” Paladino said, but he added that the district needs leadership and that the systemic problems facing the district are so bad that the board can’t afford to give Brown more time.
“The Buffalo School System is in such distress that we can’t wait for on-the-job training. We can’t wait for her to learn. We can’t wait for her to be a leader,” he said.
While Brown has a core base of support among some community groups, including many who believe she has made considerable progress during her one-year tenure so far, school district leadership has come under fire from the district’s parent activist group as well as from state education officials.
Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman and others said Brown hasn’t been given a fair shake, that she’s made progress and deserves more time.
“This superintendent has been abused, and she’s been abused on several levels,” she said.
In other news, the board voted for a two-week delay in taking action to terminate the employment of consultant Mary Guinn.
Guinn, a “leadership coach” overseeing the district’s central office reorganization, earns $290,359 (excluding travel expenses) as part of a $432,000 contract with Cross and Joftus.
Board member Sampson submitted a resolution to terminate the Cross and Joftus contract at the end of December, according to the contract’s terms. But after a closed-meeting session of the board, he said the district’s process for hiring the consulting company may have been so flawed that Buffalo does not have a legally binding contract with Cross and Joftus. Legal counsel needs more time to research the matter, he said.
If the contract with Cross and Joftus is binding, Sampson said he will reintroduce his resolution to terminate it.