Echoing what has become her mantra in recent months, Pamela C. Brown on Wednesday touted what she considers her accomplishments as Buffalo school superintendent during a self-evaluation before the School Board.
The evaluation – her first with the sitting board – comes at a critical time in Brown’s tenure, following several tumultuous months during which her leadership has been questioned by parents, business leaders and top state education officials.
The community is also two months away from critical School Board elections. The superintendent currently maintains a slim majority that helped her save her job when it came up for a vote in September. But that could change depending on the makeup of the new board.
Brown has repeatedly responded to any criticism by pointing to what she sees as positives, including a projected increase in graduation rates, a heightened focus on using data to target students’ needs and growth in the number of students going on to college.
“This shows that we’re moving in the right direction,” she said.
Brown has been highlighting these points during School Board meetings and weekly meetings with the news media, and earlier this week said the hiring of a deputy superintendent will give her more time to promote her vision in the community. And that’s exactly what she did Wednesday, going through a 28-page presentation that was originally scheduled to take 45 minutes.
Brown’s presentation included defenses against some of the strongest criticism against her, including her ability and willingness to engage key stakeholders in decision-making. She touted the involvement of parents and other groups in the development of the district’s strategic plan, an effort she called one of the most collaborative in district history. That comes despite accusations by the primary parent group that Brown has cut it out of the decision-making process.
The superintendent also talked about her reorganization of the district’s Central Office, focusing on how the shifts are affecting the classroom, rather than heralding cost savings. An analysis by The Buffalo News found that the reorganization actually increased spending by about $1 million, despite early assertions that it would save money.
Brown also pointed to the enhancement of after-school programs, although that, too, has been a contentious issue after the district failed to come up with $14 million to pay for programs in partnership with Say Yes Buffalo.
Board members did not have an opportunity to comment immediately on Brown’s presentation but will use Brown’s evaluation as a guide as they come up with their own review of her.
The evaluation also will be the first time Brown has been formally evaluated by the current board.
After the meeting, board members had mixed reactions.
“I think that presentation was very flawed, contrived,” said board member Carl P. Paladino, one of Brown’s biggest critics. “I’d like to know the basis for a lot of assumptions that were made.”
Sharon Belton-Cottman said Brown has been more progressive than past superintendents. “She’s moving us to a new level,” Belton-Cottman said.