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Unusual superintendent search process beset with problems

The latest developments in the Buffalo Board of Education’s search for a superintendent caps an unorthodox – and so far, unsuccessful – process that has been riddled with strange twists and setbacks since its inception.

Members of the board majority pushed a search process that did not involve an outside search firm because they felt that prior superintendent candidates these firms recommended were failures. Despite public pronouncements last fall that the board would commence its search for a permanent superintendent, the board failed to move on a search process until two months before former Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie’s departure July 1.

Some majority members initially said they only wanted a strong internal candidate who could turn the district around rapidly. They subsequently devised a plan to maneuver James Weimer, principal of Emerson School of Hospitality, into the superintendent’s post, without any input from the four-member board minority bloc or the community.

When Weimer pulled out due to public backlash, the board majority agreed to an open search process.

The board majority courted other candidates for the top position, most of whom declined to apply or subsequently backed out. One educator, who was encouraged to submit an application by the board majority, said many factors repel prospective candidates for the Buffalo job.

“A critical component of considering a district is researching the community,” he said, requesting anonymity. “The racial divide on the Board of Education – seen in Buffalo News comments, observing Board of Education meetings, and the most recent endorsement by a board member of a local politician who uses racially charged language – makes Buffalo incredibly unattractive.”

Parent leader Samuel Radford III said he’s chagrined the board has spent so much time and resources on a lengthy process that has so far yielded no results. Now, he said, a new school year is starting in a month’s time and the board still has nothing to show for it.

The board has so far interviewed five candidates, including three in-house candidates, with board members split on whom they’d prefer.

Carl Paladino, Larry Quinn and Patti Pierce, members of the majority bloc, have previously expressed support for Kevin J. Eberle, principal of Harvey Austin School 97.

Eberle, a former police officer with more than 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator, has been lauded as a strong relationship builder and communicator. He even enjoys a fan club among teachers who have posted signs for him around the city. But he’s been criticized by others for his track record in other districts, lack of central office experience, and inability to show consistent progress in Buffalo schools.

Paladino’s staunch support for Eberle and harsh words for critics have resulted in Eberle being a sticking point in a tug of war between the board minority bloc and several members of the board majority. President James Sampson, a member of the majority, also has refused to commit his vote to Eberle.

With 25 Buffalo schools facing receivership, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has now elected to intervene in what has been a problem-plagued process, recommending former Memphis Superintendent Kriner Cash. He will be interviewed by board members Tuesday.

For much more on this story, visit the School Zone blog at