New members sworn in to the Buffalo School Board on Wednesday promised to be civil to other members, even when they disagree.
“I think we need to have conversations that are civil and cordial, but I want to structurally change the way we educate children in Buffalo, and I’m not willing to compromise anything that gets in the way of that,” said Larry Quinn, a new at-large board member who is part of the incoming board majority.
“That’s my commitment – to work together,” said Patti Bowers Pierce, another new at-large representative and also part of the incoming majority on the nine-member board. “If you look around all over Buffalo, we are on the cusp of greatness. Now we have to move the district in the right direction.”
Also during Wednesday’s City Hall reorganizational meeting, incumbent James M. Sampson, who represents the West District, was voted board president, but not without opposition from two members of the former majority.
Sharon M. Belton-Cottman of the Ferry District voted against Sampson, and the Central District’s Mary Ruth Kapsiak abstained.
In addition, former board President Barbara A. Seals Nevergold was sworn in as the third at-large member. The East District’s Theresa A. Harris-Tigg was reappointed as vice president of the Student Achievement Committee. Jason M. McCarthy, who represents the North District, was reappointed as vice president of the Executive Affairs Committee, although four members of the former majority voted against him: Belton-Cottman, Harris-Tigg, Kapsiak and Nevergold.
Bicana Brown, a senior at Leonardo Da Vinci High School, is the board’s nonvoting student representative.
The new board has a full plate already. This week, the District Parent Coordinating Council asked the state Education Department to appoint a special master to the district to develop a Corrective Action Plan to provide placement in schools in good standing for every parent and student making the request.
Board members did not have knowledge of the parent council letter at the reorganizational meeting and did not want to comment on the issue until they have had an opportunity to examine it.
Last September, the School Board approved a Corrective Action Plan, which ultimately failed, to establish about 2,100 slots for students in schools in good standing by the start of the 2014-15 academic year. To date, none has been established, and the district is out of compliance with federal and state laws, said parent council President Samuel L. Radford III.
“We don’t want them to wait a month. We don’t have time to waste. We need the commissioner to intervene right away,” Radford said. “We’ve got 3,000 students who are forced to go to failing schools against their will.”
Radford also said the parent council is hopeful about the new board’s ability to make critical changes. In contrast, the old board majority maintained the status quo instead of considering new ways to get different results, he said.
“First of all, we are very encouraged by the new board. They’re not people who are under the control of other people. They have the independence to make the hard decisions,” said Radford, who said he is cautiously optimistic.
“We won’t make final judgment until we see what they will do. But we are encouraged by the fact they are much more independent than the previous board.”