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Two board members not as high on Cash as they seemed

At a public meeting to evaluate Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash Wednesday, board members went around the conference table heaping praise and compliments on him for his work.

Board member Barbara Seals Nevergold even gave Cash a big hug, an apparent show of approval.

But the scene that unfolded publicly contrasted with private reviews by Nevergold and fellow board member Sharon Belton-Cottman, who both pushed to get the evaluation done before a new board is installed Friday.

The two gave Cash the lowest scores of anyone on the board, coming down particularly hard on him for not keeping the board informed and criticizing him for not including some board members in conversations about the direction of the district.

Cash has enjoyed a broad base of support both on the board and in the community since he took the helm of the district in August. He was appointed with a unanimous vote. Since then, board members have remained supportive of his plans to implement community schools, lower class sizes and create a network of innovative high schools offering specialized programs.

That universal support seemed to be the case at Wednesday’s meeting, when the board reconvened publicly and unanimously agreed to give Cash a 2.5 percent pay raise annually on top of his $275,000 salary. The board also extended his contract by one year, until 2020. The board gave Cash an overall rating of 3.43 out of 4.

A look at board members’ individual ratings, however, shows that Nevergold and Belton-Cottman were the only ones to give Cash a score lower than 3. Neither woman returned calls for comment Thursday.

On a scale of 1 to 4, Belton-Cottman’s average rating of Cash was 2.82. Nevergold’s was 2.4.

Some of the lowest marks were for how Cash interacts with the board. Specifically, Belton-Cottman gave Cash a score of 1 – the lowest possible mark – for keeping the board informed on issues and encouraging teamwork.

In contrast, Cash gave himself a perfect score in that area.

The scores contrasted with the public show of support the two board members showered on Cash at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Superintendent Cash came to Buffalo with boots on the ground and has done a phenomenal job in the short period of time he’s been with us,” Belton-Cottman said during the meeting. “I’m very proud that he represents our district… and I look forward to working with him in the future to see his vision completely flourish and develop in this district.”

Nevergold said she was looking forward to working with Cash.

“We’re agreeing that we want you, and we want you to be successful,” she said.

The two members’ reviews weren’t completely negative. Belton-Cottman, for example, gave Cash high marks for focusing on results and leading change.

Cash’s highest overall marks came from two remaining members of the outgoing majority – Carl Paladino and Patti Pierce – who gave him a 3.98 and 3.89, respectively.

The evaluation came two days before the swearing in of new board members on Friday, which is expected to shift the balance of power on the board.

Staff writer Tiffany Lankes contributed to this report