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Paladino again rails against city schools

Carl P. Paladino re-emerged into the public eye Wednesday and he's still mad as hell.

The former Republican candidate for governor gave the Board of Education a tongue-lashing during the public comment portion of its meeting, reviving many previous complaints about Buffalo Public Schools.

"My remarks are directed at the collective board, which should be ashamed for its functional paralysis and inability to implement change necessary to deal with core problems," he said.

Paladino gave board members 30 days to deal with the issues he spelled out or resign. If they do neither, Paladino says he will do everything in his power to persuade the Common Council to withhold its funding for the school system.

"I'm giving them 30 days, and then I'm mobilizing people," he said. "I'm good at that."

He outlined five core problems with the city schools:

*Too many children in special education. The solution, he said, lies in creating boarding schools for children 6 years old and older "which would reinforce the self-esteem and confidence of children by dressing them in clean uniforms, feeding them three square meals a day and conditioning them to after-school study and sports programs."

*Too many costly state mandates.

The inability to require School Board members to meet certain educational requirements. State lawmakers, he said, should establish appointed boards consisting of members who do.

*State laws giving unions too much of an upper hand in contract negotiations.

*Superintendent James A. Williams. The board, he said, should fire the superintendent and launch a national search for a replacement. Williams "is not intellectually capable of doing the job," Paladino said outside the meeting.

While conceding that many of his complaints may sound familiar, Paladino said he is taking a different approach this time by threatening to get the city to withhold funding.

"I hear so much in the community about the failures of this system. I'm a tax-paying citizen, and I intend to do something about it," he said, noting that only about half the city's students graduate from high school.

Board members listened politely while Paladino aired his complaints. Later in the evening, several made a point of saying they did not agree with much of what he had to say but did agree with the sense of urgency he conveyed.

"Carl comes here, and he routinely beats us up," said Louis Petrucci, who represents the Park District. "I don't always agree with everything he has to say. But he speaks because he is passionate. [I think] we could take away the sense of urgency he has, to get kids achieving as well as possible as soon as possible."

Pamela Cahill, the Ferry District board member, said that while she disagreed with most of Paladino's comments, she agreed on the potential for boarding schools in the city.

Williams said he also believes boarding schools would be a good idea. He suggested Paladino help fund a boarding school with the $475,000 he receives each year in lease payments from the district.

That was the kindest thing Williams had to say about his constant critic.

"I think he's an embarrassment to this community. His mouth is an embarrassment, and I think this community should do something about it," Williams said after the meeting.

Paladino has shied away from any major public role since his crushing defeat Nov. 2 by Andrew M. Cuomo in the gubernatorial contest. Sources say he vacationed for a while and has since been attending to his real estate development business.

He has ignored interview requests from The Buffalo News, although he did attack The News and its publisher on a billboard he owns along the southbound Niagara Thruway.

But he has surfaced here and there in other media appearances. Last week, he appeared on Curtis Sliwa's New York City radio show and has been a guest on business-related television programs.

His made his only other foray into local policy discussions about two weeks after the election when he retook his seat on the Buffalo Place board of directors and attacked rival developer Mark D. Croce for seeking more than $5.2 million in government money to help stabilize the Statler Towers.

But until Wednesday, he remained largely out of the spotlight.

News Political Reporter Robert J. McCarthy contributed to this report.


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