Superintendent Pamela C. Brown on Wednesday presented the School Board and public with a set of facts that should have been plain to her from the beginning. Hiring two unqualified people as district administrators is wrong. Maneuvering to transform them into highly paid “interns” is even more wrong.
The Buffalo School Board did the right thing Wednesday in voting unanimously to fire Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander because they lack the certification to do their jobs. It’s too bad the situation went as far as it did.
Education lawyer Karl Kristoff made it plain to Brown and board members Wednesday that despite earlier efforts and plans to keep Alexander and Williams as interns, the idea would not fly. There were too many job responsibilities Alexander and Williams could not fulfill in that role.
Brown recommended the resolutions to fire the administrators, but only after first hiring the unqualified administrators, then trying the intern trick. The board approved the terminations while stating the actions do “not reflect negatively” on the administrators’ competence or contributions to the district. Brown called the decision “very difficult.” But the fact-finding and research she talked about doing over the past few weeks should have been done earlier.
Alexander was acting as one of the district’s chiefs of school leadership. It was her job to provide direct oversight to schools. Williams acted as the district’s chief of curriculum, assessment and instruction.
Both women have district-level certification in other states. But not in this one. The district actually violated its own job descriptions, which clearly state that district leader certification is required upon hiring.
After the district spent $13,000 in local grant money to enroll Alexander and Williams in a superintendent development program through Oswego State College and then found out that the college is not one of the sites eligible to offer a “Transitional D” certification, an alternative plan was hatched.
The college could give Williams and Alexander enough credit for past work/college experience to make them immediately eligible for internship certificates.
Except internships are typically geared toward teachers and not district administrators. Other administrators typically have no more than 40 days to gain district leader certification if they don’t already have it upon arrival.
The state Education Department made it clear that Williams and Alexander would only be able to serve as interns, under supervision, within the school system. The certificates would have allowed the women to do what the district decides they can do, within limits, while under supervision. At $130,000 or so per year. Each.
Williams and Alexander could still get the certification they need. They have up to two years to do so, although they should repay the district instead. Indeed, the district should ask to get the money back.
This is yet another segment in the ongoing saga starring the Buffalo Public Schools and its ill-suited superintendent. She broadsided the School Board on a key hire – former highly paid consultant Mary Guinn was presented to the board, without notice, as interim deputy superintendent. Guinn and the now-fired administrators shared previous employment as consultants with the Arizona-based Evans Newton educational firm.
Williams and Alexander were placed on unpaid leave after Board Member Carl Paladino publicized the fact that neither one had the certification that her job description and employment contract requires.
Under Brown’s direction, the Buffalo School District has cut corners, deceived the School Board and public, and failed to achieve routine standards of competence the state’s other large school districts seem to meet easily.
With elections just over a month away, Brown could soon find herself confronting a School Board that formally acknowledges her deficiencies as a leader. And votes to fire her. There is no reason to wait that long.