Ifeel sorry for the homeless guy. The unnamed, down-on-his-luck gentleman was minding his own business outside the downtown Liberty Building on the warm, early evening of Sept. 3. His reverie was shattered by people arguing, yelling and making such a commotion that it’s a wonder the cops didn’t roll up.
But this was no gang of young thugs or drunken partyers raising a ruckus. It was a posse from the Hamburg School Board. Catherine Schrauth Forcucci had apparently brought her bullying act to the streets of Buffalo. Maybe she figured that having previewed the show in Hamburg, she was ready for a larger stage.
How I hate it when suburbanites bring their drama downtown.
But seriously, the bizarre saga of Hamburg’s infamous, adults-gone-wild board just got its most surrealistic snapshot. Transcripts released Wednesday from the continuing hearings on misconduct charges against Schrauth Forcucci – which could get her booted off the board – included details of the September scrum downtown. It happened after a meeting with lawyers on a district legal issue. The tale was told by Superintendent Richard Jetter, a self-described prime target of Schrauth Forcucci – who is part of a “rogue” board contingent that hijacked civility upon its ascension to power.
Schrauth Forcucci denies the charges. Her attorney contends that simple disagreements are being framed as harassment.
Good luck with that defense. The downtown showdown is just one of several incidents where Schrauth Forcucci intimidated, bullied and “got in the face” of Jetter and other school officials, the superintendent said.
I was captivated by Jetter’s recounting of another September incident, when she showed up late one afternoon unannounced at his office, dressed in her U.S. Postal Service uniform. She demanded in short order the copying of 750 pages of legal documents she had already been given on a flash drive. Getting so close Jetter said he could “feel her breath,” she wouldn’t leave until he called Hamburg police to escort her out. Even so, the Buffalo street theater episode ranks as my favorite in the Hamburg Weirdness canon, for its public setting and pure off-the-wall, don’t-care-who’s-watching craziness.
According to Jetter’s testimony, Schrauth Forcucci – calm throughout the meeting with attorneys – flipped the switch after leaving the building. Jetter said she lit into him and Dave Yoviene, board president, when they hit the sidewalk, in front of a diverse downtown audience.
She was screaming at Dave Yoviene about how he is not doing his job. ... She poked Dave in the chest, then started screaming at me. ... I’m like, ‘what is this lady doing?’ This is a Jekyll and Hyde. She’s calm upstairs, then she lights it up on us in the streets of Buffalo.
Among those looking on disapprovingly, continued Jetter, was an unnamed street person.
I stood there dumbfounded as to what was going on. There were people walking by us. There was a homeless guy with his shopping cart and he gave us a dirty look, probably … wondering who we were. It was embarrassing.
And that, really, is the larger story. The move to kick Schrauth Forcucci off the board is part of an effort, continued last month at the ballot box, to return control of Hamburg schools to the hands of reasonable people.
I don’t defend public bodies conducting business behind closed doors, unless absolutely necessary. But I can see why rational board members wanted to keep these hearings – opened up Wednesday by a court order – under wraps. It’s another humiliation for a district whose public face is already blistered red with embarrassment. It’s like they’ve been taking sun in the Sahara.
If Jetter isn’t exaggerating, and I have no reason to believe he is, there’s a compelling case for pushing the eject button on Schrauth Forcucci’s board seat.
He lays out a pattern of bullying and in-your-face, uncivil behavior so rank that, had Schrauth Forcucci been a student, she would have been suspended and told to act like an adult.
Sadly, she is an adult. Perhaps she can be advised to start behaving more like a mature, responsible teenager. I bet there are plenty of kids at Hamburg High School who could – as a service to rogue board members – model civil, acceptable behavior for some of their elders.
The training would include speaking in a normal tone, never getting so close that someone can count your pores and – last but not least – not startling homeless people on the streets of downtown Buffalo.
Even for untethered members of Hamburg’s School Board, it shouldn’t be too much to ask.