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Buffalo board OKs superintendent per diem

The Buffalo Board of Education on Wednesday approved a transition agreement with incoming superintendent Pamela Brown, providing for an $800-a-day per diem fee as a consultant.

The agreement is dated June 18 and allows her to be paid for days she is in Buffalo before a final contract is approved.

Board President Louis J. Petrucci said the board hopes to sign a final contract with Brown as its next superintendent by July 11.

The district also agreed to cover her airfare and lodging expenses.

Her per diem rate would work out to $208,000 on an annual basis.

Ralph Hernandez was the lone board member to vote no on the agreement.

Also Wednesday, the School Board briefly considered pursuing a Plan B for Lafayette High School – one that would not hinge on reaching a teacher-evaluation plan for 2012-13 in the next few days – but then decided to gamble on the plan that's already in place.

Nearly two months ago, the state approved a plan that involves hiring Johns Hopkins University to run Lafayette – and East High School – but about $3 million in federal funds for the two schools hinges on the district and the teachers union reaching an agreement on teacher evaluations for 2012-13 by July 1.

With just a few days left, that has not yet happened. The two sides have been negotiating for three days, with a fourth day scheduled today.

"Work with [the Buffalo Teachers Federation] seems to be going along well," Interim Superintendent Amber M. Dixon told the board.

The union has agreed to "80 percent" of the evaluation plan, Associate Superintendent Debra Sykes said.

The district also must have a principal evaluation plan in place by July 1. Negotiations with the principals union are running into problems, she said, because the principals are on vacation. District officials have "had some conversations with State Ed about extending that deadline a bit," she said.
Sykes said state officials seemed inclined to give the district until the first week in July to submit both evaluation agreements, in part because the July 1 deadline falls on a Sunday.

Sykes and Dixon told the board that they could opt to instead submit a turnaround plan for those schools, plus Buffalo Elementary School of Technology. That would mean half the staff at each school would have to be moved, but there would be no need to have an evaluation plan in place by July 1.

"Are you looking for a move on our part?" West District School Board member Ralph R. Hernandez asked Dixon.

"If you take no action, we stand by the restart plans we submitted in December," she said. "So no action is necessary, but I wanted you to know where you are, so if you wanted to do something, you knew what was going on."

With almost no discussion, the board opted to stick with the restart plans that were submitted for those three schools.

Three other schools are moving forward with state-approved turnaround plans, which require moving half the staff, something the union has opposed.

Sykes said the Buffalo Teachers Federation is "looking at filing for an injunction against the turnaround model and moving staff."

Also at Wednesday's board meeting, a proposal to move Leonardo da Vinci High School to the Grover Cleveland building – which had housed International Prep – drew impassioned protests from students, parents and staff from both schools.

Those from da Vinci want their school to stay on the D'Youville College campus, and those from International Prep want to move back into Grover.

Da Vinci supporters said the success of the program hinges on keeping it on the college campus.
Lawrence Grisanti, a retired Buffalo principal, said his son flourished at da Vinci because of its location.

"Every day for four years that he stepped on that college campus, he felt like he was going to college," Grisanti said.

International Prep supporters said many of its immigrant students live on the West Side, near Grover, and moving the program back into that building would increase parent involvement and student attendance.

"What motivates me today is my school, International Prep. And I would like my building back," said Win Han, this year's salutatorian, who has been in the United States for four years.