School district’s phantom budget savings just the latest example of a leadership void - The Buffalo News
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School district’s phantom budget savings just the latest example of a leadership void

An illuminating analysis Sunday by News staff reporters Mary Pasciak and Sandra Tan on how the Buffalo Public Schools lost out on millions of dollars in savings revealed the shocking inner workings and power plays within a calcified system.

That system is why, in part, the reorganization of the district’s administration cost taxpayers $1.6 million instead of saving $2 million. Turns out, preserving the jobs of longtime administrators was more important than the education of 34,000 students.

The education of a generation of schoolchildren is being hurt because leaders fail to lead. Those leaders refuse to buck the entrenched system, because if they do, well, then their own paychecks will be at risk.

The city and region will be suffering the effects of a failing education system until school, civic and political leaders man-up and woman-up. Do whatever needs to be done. Rock whatever political boat needs to be rocked. Name names. Shout it out to the world. There are lives to save.

Caving in is not a solution. Neither is working within this broken system. And that’s what Superintendent Pamela C. Brown and consulting firm Cross & Joftus must now fully realize.

The picture became clear when Brown was pressured by School Board members and some elected officials to keep administrators who would have lost their jobs under the reorganization plan that Brown developed with the consulting firm.

“Dr. Brown has to work within the constraints of real personalities, real people, real contracts and real political pressure that she needs to navigate on a daily basis,” Scott Joftus said.

Save this person who’s a friend/former colleague of that School Board member. Or has some connection to that assemblyman. And don’t forget to check with the unions, because too many of these administrators belong to one. And definitely don’t forget to check who’s related to whom and where that person’s political connections run.

Who knew it was this bad? Not Cross & Joftus, that’s for sure. The Maryland-based firm, which has dealt with many school districts across the country, has never run across such confusing layers of unionization through so many levels of upper management.

The consultants should have done their homework before promising the district could save millions by reorganizing the central office. The firm was working under a one-year, $432,000 contract that was set to expire in June, but recently decided to withdraw its contract. Probably for the best.

The district should demand a refund. Cross & Joftus found out the hard way that this is Buffalo. What works in other districts, even in other parts of New York State, doesn’t work here.

Buffalo public schoolchildren need a superhero with enough backbone to take on the unions and even, when necessary, the School Board and political leaders. Heck, even the community if it gets in the way of a sound education. Too many people want to protect “their guy,” but who is protecting the children?

Leading the school district out of its educational dead end is the hardest job in Western New York. We need someone who is up to the challenge of that thankless job.

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