Barbara A. Seals Nevergold got a little more than she bargained for when she was elected president of the Buffalo Board of Education last July.
In that time, she has had to survive a bid by a fellow board member to unseat her, repeatedly try to corral a sharply divided and often contentious board and take heat for her support of Superintendent Pamela C. Brown.
“It has not been what I had hoped,” Nevergold said of her presidency so far.
But as she runs for a full term to an at-large seat she assumed in 2012, after being appointed to fill a vacancy, she insists that things are getting better.
“I have a good handle on the issues and problems – not on all the solutions,” she said.
It has been a steep learning curve without the benefit of training, she said. There was no time for that because the new board was seated almost immediately after she was elected president.
Nevergold, 70, earned a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo in counseling education, and she is co-founder and co-director of the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Empire State College and a former director of student support services at UB’s Educational Opportunity Center.
Once a French teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools, Nevergold studied the language at Laval University in Quebec and at the University of Dijon in France. She also was a guidance counselor in the district.
She was appointed to fill the remainder of Christopher L. Jacobs’ term following his election as Erie County clerk.
In a petition filed in November with the state Education Department, School Board member Carl P. Paladino contended that Nevergold was holding her seat illegally because she did not run for election in the first board race after her appointment. The state rejected that and other Paladino complaints about her, but he said he plans to pursue the issue in court.
Nevergold said Paladino has been a “difficult personality with all the motions and issues” he has raised, and “it took me some time” to learn to deal with him.” Paladino was her motivation to bring order to how resolutions are introduced by board members, she said.
“Now he has to state it, get a second, and then we discuss,” Nevergold said. Many times, no other board members second Paladino’s motions.
Presiding over a deeply divided board has been another challenge for Nevergold. So has her support for Brown, who often finds herself in hot water with board members – including, at times, Nevergold.
Nevergold, who is endorsed by Grassroots and Unity, was one of the board members who approved Brown’s controversial rehiring this year of interim Deputy Superintendent Mary E. Guinn. It was also under Brown’s leadership that two top aides were hired and then fired last month after it was revealed they did not have the proper state certifications.
Still, Nevergold said, she believes that Brown should stay on as superintendent.
“She’s bright. She has a hands-on philosophy. She thinks broadly in terms of a strategic plan. And she has displayed perseverance and stamina,” Nevergold said.
On other issues, Nevergold said that for now, the district does not need more charter schools beyond the current 17.
Nor does the district need more criteria-based schools, she said, and the board should establish admission requirements for those schools. Her other goals include supporting expansion and enhancement of proven programs that help students achieve, such as universal prekindergarten.
Nevergold, who has a granddaughter at Bennett Park Montessori School 32, said she also wants to be a “voice and vote” to maintain stability in the district. “Progress is being achieved under this current administration,” she said, “and I would like to see that progress continue.”
As the district has struggled to close what was once a projected $50 million deficit for the upcoming school year, she would like to see the city share its proceeds from the sales of closed school buildings.