Two top Buffalo Public Schools administrators hired last summer, including the district’s academic chief, do not have the required state certifications to hold their jobs.
Yamilette Williams, chief of curriculum, assessment and instruction, has only a conditional certificate to serve as a school principal in New York State, not as a districtwide administrator, according to the state Education Department.
Faith Morrison Alexander, one of the district’s chiefs of school leadership who provide direct oversight to schools, has the same conditional certificate.
Both of them are still required to take state exams for permanent certification. Neither possesses district-level leadership certification, even though the district’s posted job descriptions explicitly stated that candidates possess such certification by the time of their appointment.
The failure of these two administrators, and of the district, to secure the proper certification means that the district could be held liable for any decisions made by Williams or Alexander on a daily basis, according to Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn.
“A district necessarily incurs liability in such situations,” he said.
School Board member Carl P. Paladino has submitted a resolution for tonight’s board meeting that, among other things, seeks to have Alexander and Williams removed and/or suspended from their positions.
Both Williams and Alexander were hired from out of state by Superintendent Pamela C. Brown when Deputy Superintendent Mary E. Guinn was spearheading the district’s Central Office reorganization.
Williams, Alexander and Guinn are all also connected with the Arizona-based Evans Newton educational firm, for which all three once worked as consultants.
Although Williams had earlier submitted a state application for a School District Leader Certificate, Dunn said her application was incomplete. The state spokesman also said that as of Monday, Alexander had not submitted any application at all.
Darren J. Brown, the district’s top human resources administrator, said Alexander had submitted her application previously but failed to pay the application fee until Tuesday.
In general, he said, district employees are responsible for handling their own certification requirements. But with Williams and Alexander coming from out of state to take high-level positions, he said, his office would normally provide assistance. But due to short staffing and other human resources emergencies, the human resources administrator said, these certification requirements weren’t properly dealt with.
“I should have followed up on this,” he said.
He also said that while the district could face liability issues until Williams and Alexander are properly certified, both administrators work in collaboration with the superintendent and other administrators who do possess the proper certification, so district exposure should be limited.
He pointed out that both Williams and Alexander possess district leadership certification in other states. Both Williams and Alexander have district leadership certification in Florida. Williams also has similar certification in Oklahoma.
While other states provide full interstate reciprocity for these certifications, New York State often requires that additional standards be met, Darren Brown said. He added that he filed the paperwork Tuesday to have both Williams’ and Alexander’s certification applications expedited.
Although the posted job descriptions for the chief of curriculum, assessment and instruction, and the chief of school leadership specifically require district-level certification, the human resources administrator said exceptions were made for Williams and Alexander because the district had great difficulty finding other qualified candidates.
“These were both hard-to-fill positions,” Darren Brown said. “We knew these individuals were extremely qualified and experienced. I really didn’t think the interstate reciprocity would be an issue.” He added that it was his understanding that as long as Williams and Alexander were working toward their New York State district leadership certificates, they could be immediately hired on an “emergency, temporary basis.”
The two have since been serving as key members of the superintendent’s Executive Cabinet since September. Issues regarding their lack of certification were not addressed until Paladino raised the issue this week. He said Tuesday that the missing certifications was another “example of incompetency” by district leaders.
Darren Brown said that 15 people applied for the position of chief of curriculum, assessment and instruction position and that a number of them were eventually interviewed. But the other candidates didn’t have the background the superintendent was looking for, which was an administrator with school turnaround experience.
Both Williams and Alexander – as well as other district leaders hired by Pamela Brown from out of state over the last year – have been touted as school turnaround specialists with urban school district experience.
Prior to working as an educational consultant for Evans Newton from 2010 to 2013, Williams spent more than 20 years working in several school districts as an educational technology administrator, according to her résumé. As a consultant from 2010 to her hiring in Buffalo, she worked with three different school districts, most recently in Kansas City, Kan., on school turnaround planning.
She earned a master’s in education from Devry University in 2003 and gained a doctorate in education from the University of Oklahoma in 2012. She resided in Florida prior to coming to Buffalo.
Alexander worked as a literacy coach and curriculum specialist in Florida until serving as principal of Leadership Academy West, a West Palm Beach charter high school, from 2007-09, according to her résumé.
She then worked from 2009 to 2010 as a senior administrator of school accountability and curriculum with the Florida Department of Education before becoming an educational consultant in 2010, working with numerous school districts on curriculum development and school turnaround planning.
Alexander gained her master’s and doctorate in educational leadership from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. She resided in Georgia before coming to Buffalo.