When Carl Paladino arrived at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday night, he walked up to the front of the room to hug some board members, then wandered back to his seat.
"Carl! Carl! Don't I get a hug?" Superintendent James A. Williams called after him. "Mr. Paladino, you didn't hug me."
"You don't want a hug from me," Paladino called back.
And that's about where the lovefest ended. A few minutes later, Paladino was up at the podium, eviscerating the board for what he deems to be its failure to adequately educate children in Buffalo.
The board had no business extending Superintendent James A. Williams' contract through 2014, Paladino said. He cited a letter over the summer from Don Ogilvie, the BOCES superintendent, which Williams withheld from the board.
"The board was not made aware by the superintendent of a letter from Don Ogilvie of BOCES condemning many aspects of the operations of the system and the way many of the schools in the district are run. The failure to disclose the letter to the board was clearly fraud on the inception," Paladino said.
"The superintendent should immediately be discharged for cause and the board should commence a national search for a high-quality replacement who can provide not only the vision, but also who has the intestinal fortitude to carry out the structural reforms so necessary to the future of our children."
The former gubernatorial candidate also called on the board to open boarding schools for children as young as 6, work to end state mandates, and battle the state laws that he says give unions the upper hand in contract negotiations, among other things.
You can hear for yourself all of what Paladino had to say to the board:
(Or, if you prefer, you can read his full comments here.)
Board President Ralph Hernandez, who came under fire from fellow board member Florence Johnson for attending a Paladino rally this fall, defended Williams.
"I do not agree with most of the stuff (Paladino) said, in particular the comments he made about Dr. Williams," Hernandez said. "We respect (Paladino) and we expect him to come in this forum and respect us. We don’t mind the criticism. But then there’s also a professional decorum expected from every speaker that steps up to that podium."
Paladino promises his comments Wednesday night were just the beginning. He gave the board 30 days to start taking his advice -- or resign.
It doesn't seem likely either one will happen.
The consequence? Paladino says he's going to get the Common Council to withhold its $70 million or so in annual contributions to the district.
He told me outside the meeting that he doesn't have any other community leaders offering to back him on this, and he hasn't even tried lining up support on the Council yet. Nonetheless, Paladino says he's confident he'll be able to mobilize the community to support his efforts.
It's anybody's guess what will happen next.
My guess, though, is that we've seen the last of the hugs.
- Mary Pasciak