The Buffalo School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to fire high-ranking administrators Faith Morrison Alexander and Yamilette Williams because they lack the certification to do their jobs.
Education lawyer Karl Kristoff made it clear to Superintendent Pamela Brown and board members Wednesday that despite earlier intentions to try to retain Alexander and Williams as interns, there were too many job responsibilities Alexander and Williams could not fulfill in that role.
The internship certification granted to them by the State Education Department last weekend “did make them eligible to perform some of the duties related to their roles,” Brown said, “but it did not give them the full authority to execute all of their responsibilities. And that was really taken into consideration for the final decision.”
As interns, neither administrator would be able to evaluate other personnel, for instance, without having another certified district administrator essentially shadowing their work, board members said.
The resolutions to fire Williams, the district’s chief of curriculum, assessment and instruction; and Alexander, one of the district’s chiefs of school leadership, were made at Brown’s recommendation after receiving advice from Kristoff. In both cases, the board approved the terminations while stating that the actions do “not reflect negatively” on the administrators’ competence or contributions to the district.
Brown called the decision “very difficult” and said it was made after a lot of fact-finding and research over the past few weeks. She praised both Williams and Alexander for the work they did until they were placed on unpaid leave last month.
“We appreciate the contributions that they made to this district,” she said. “They certainly, in every way, appeared to have the qualifications to work in this district.”
The district has spent $13,000 in tuition to help Alexander and Williams complete the coursework necessary through SUNY Oswego State for them to gain their district leader certification in New York State. Brown said it would be up to the two former administrators to decide whether they want to continue their participation in those programs.
Brown has maintained that she was unaware that the administrators did not have the proper certification needed to do their jobs when she hired them last year.
“At the time they were hired, it was my understanding that whatever they needed to have in order to take those positions, that they had it,” she said. “It did not come to my attention that they did not have the proper certification until just recently.”
Board President Barbara Nevergold said the responsibility for these women to have the proper certification rested with the employees themselves, though there was an expectation that the Human Resources Department would assist.
The board discussed possible alternatives to continue Williams’ and Alexander’s employment, Nevergold said, but came to the conclusion that it was not feasible.
Other board members said that if Williams and Alexander had been retained, it would have set a bad and indefensible precedent for the district. Other administrators typically have no more than 40 days to gain district leader certification if they don’t already have it when they arrive.
Peter Loehr, an associate professor with SUNY Buffalo State, who spoke to the board on the subject of state certification, said that the students who typically get internship certificates are applying for unpaid, entry-level administrative positions like assistant principals.
Williams and Alexander have received no pay since they were placed on leave and will receive no pay now that they have been fired, Brown said.
She also said there will be some restructuring of existing staff to cover the work Williams and Alexander were doing. With the upcoming budget discussions, she added, the filling of these positions will be a topic of discussion.
For a breakdown of Wednesday’s special meeting, please visit the School Zone blog at www.buffalonews.com/schoolzone