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Much rancor at raucous meeting of Buffalo School Board

There was no end to the lowlights at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Buffalo School Board. The board spent an hour and a half debating – and ultimately approving – a job posting for the next superintendent, as well as a resolution agreeing to a superintendent search.

In that time, an angry member of the public offered two middle fingers to the board majority, other members of the public were thrown out by the police, and some members of the board majority and minority blocs interrupted each other in a race to the bottom regarding amendments and changes they wanted to see regarding the superintendent search.

At one point, when district Operations Director James Kane was asked to take a roll call vote on the amendments to the superintendent job posting, Kane stood up at the lectern and said, “Roll call vote on the amendment – God only knows what it is.”

At several other points, Karl W. Kristoff, the district’s outside counsel, was called in to clarify Robert’s Rules of Order regarding their vote, and both interim Superintendent Donald A. Ogilvie and other administrators were asked to review and read back the various amendments and changes during the discussion.

In the end, the board approved a broad superintendent resolution proposed by board member Larry Quinn that would post the position for three weeks, followed by résumés, interviews and a selection of the next superintendent in an unspecified time frame.

Members of the board minority bloc had pushed for a longer and more defined search process that would have included the use of an outside search consultant.

Board member Sharon M. Belton-Cottman sought a timeline that would have resulted in the hiring of a superintendent in January. But majority board members said the district should not have to wait that long for a permanent superintendent.

The board ultimately approved Quinn’s resolution in a 6-2 vote, with Belton-Cottman and Theresa A. Harris-Tigg voting against.

About 100 members of the public attended the meeting, which was relocated to the auditorium of Southside Elementary School. Many current and retired teachers were in attendance, as well as a group of people in the front two rows that were apparently sympathetic to the board majority.

Both board members Harris-Tigg and Belton-Cottman threatened to call security because the group up front was apparently exchanging remarks and making faces, although the back-and-forth was not heard by most in the audience or people sitting nearby.

Finally, Harris-Tigg asked that security deal with one of the front-row offenders. Two Buffalo police officers escorted out one woman, and about 10 others followed behind her.

This led board member Carl P. Paladino to criticize Harris-Tigg, saying that members of the public have heaped far worse upon him but were allowed to stay.

In addressing Quinn’s resolution calling for a superintendent search, board minority members questioned why his resolution called for superintendent search input through a community forum hosted by the Community Action Organization on May 21.

They said they didn’t agree to have this group host any community meeting and that it was wrong for the board majority to select a group and select a date without consulting any member of the board minority bloc beforehand.

“We have a lack of transparency here,” Belton-Cottman said, adding, “This was being put in here again without consideration of the minority group that has a stake in it, and this is how this is being run. … This is a total disenfranchisement of me and my constituents.”

“That is total, unmitigated baloney,” answered Quinn, who angrily added that he didn’t want a community forum in the first place but agreed to one because that’s what the minority bloc wanted.

He also said he emailed all of the board members about this. “I am sick and tired of trying to respond to what people are asking me for, then getting kicked for it.”

Ultimately, the board voted to remove the last paragraph of the resolution that called for a community forum.

In other business, the board approved an $825.8 million budget for the coming school year that adds 260 positions.

The board amended the budget to reallocate a few million dollars to fully fund the hiring of 48 physical-education teachers to bring the district into compliance with state requirements regarding phys ed, an issue that parent groups have been pushing for years.

Fully funding the physical-education positions, however, would require an agreement with the teachers union to allow for longer school days to accommodate more gym classes into the schedule.

For complete coverage of Wednesday’s meeting, go to the School Zone blog, buffalonews.com/schoolzone. email: stan@buffnews.com