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Board's intensions about Williams remain clouded

Superintendent James A. Williams' employment in Buffalo was nearly cut short Wednesday.

Board of Education President Ralph R. Hernandez called a special meeting for noon to discuss setting in motion proceedings to consider terminating Williams' contract. But the noon session was called off just three hours after it was announced Tuesday.

An e-mail from the board office indicated only that it was "canceled until further notice" because of "conflicting schedules of board members."

The board had planned to discuss a "no fault" termination clause in Williams' contract and vote on whether to initiate the procedure outlines in that clause.

Under that provision, the board would have to notify the superintendent of its tentative decision to terminate his contract, and notify him in writing of a date on which the board wants to meet with him in executive session to discuss its intent.

If, after the executive session meeting, the board were to decide to proceed to terminate his contract, it would have to notify him in writing of the effective date of the termination.

He would be entitled to six months' pay, or $110,000.

The noon meeting was canceled, but the board held a previously scheduled committee meeting at 4 p.m., followed by its regular voting meeting at 5:30.

At 8, the board voted unanimously to go into executive session to discuss disciplinary action against a teacher, contract negotiations and an unspecified personnel matter.

Hernandez took an unprecedented step to keep the media away from the door of the boardroom during the executive session.

For the first time any administrator or journalist could remember, the news media were cleared from the waiting room adjacent to the boardroom. Two district security guards and a few administrators sat in that waiting room while members of the media waited in the hallway.

After more than two hours, the board emerged from its private meeting and proceeded to attend to other matters, with no mention of the superintendent's contract.

After the meeting, Hernandez had little to say.

"I can tell you we had some discussion about employment matters," he said. "I can't tell you how we're going to proceed."

When pressed by reporters, he acknowledged that the board had discussed Williams, but declined to say more.

"This is a very sensitive situation we're dealing with here," Hernandez said.

In other matters, the District Parent Coordinating Council held a news conference calling on the Buffalo Teachers Federation to waive the clause in its contract that guarantees teachers the right to coaching positions over non-teachers.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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