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Rally at City Hall offers support of embattled Buffalo School Superintendent Brown

The signs at the rally Thursday evening in support of embattled Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown had two themes.

Most of the placards held by the crowd of about 80 on the steps of City Hall said things like “Give Our Children A Chance. Keep Dr. Brown” and “We Love You, Dr. Brown.”

But a fair number of them made it seem like it was also a rally against the man who is trying to get her fired – outspoken School Board member Carl Paladino.

“Drama Is For TV, Not Board Meetings,” one said. “Paladino – Lots Of Proposals, Zero Solutions To Improve Test Scores,” said another.

“Not everything in Buffalo has changed,” said Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, who once served on the Board of Education. “There’s one subway on one street. There’s one major daily newspaper. The culture of one is still in effect.

“And speaking of one, may I remind you that she’s only been here for about one year,” he continued. “Some want to blame just one and forget that it takes an entire village to raise a child. … We’re not blaming one person. We are blaming us all. Give her a chance to fix what we broke.”

BUILD President Charley Fisher III, who introduced each speaker, noted that during Brown’s first year here, graduation rates increased by 6 percent.

“Dr. Brown has a five-year plan,” he said. “This district will graduate 80 percent of its students if she’s left alone. In her first year, attendance soared, dropouts fell, because she committed herself not to throw kids away.”

“When I started teaching in Buffalo 30 years ago, the system was broken then,” said cultural historian Eva Doyle. “I want her to have the opportunity to do her job without all this anger, chaos and poison that’s in the air. Pamela Brown, stand your ground.”

The crowd responded by turning those words into a chant.

Angelica Rivera from Citizen Action and the Alliance of Quality Education, who has twin boys in prekindergarten, cited the district’s new Code of Conduct as one of Brown’s accomplishments and added, “I want a leader who actually cares about my children … and is willing to work with me.”

The rally was organized by We Are Women Warriors, Women of Worth, and Women Organized to Mentor, Educate and Nurture – organizations that primarily include women, African-American professionals, community activists, pastors and parents. Organizers had hoped that 1,000 people would turn out.

Although some speakers were critical of the sharp division of race and gender on the Board of Education, noting that the five women, all African-American, and the four men, all white, are usually opposed to one another, Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, founder of We Are Women Warriors, discounted the racial issue, saying earlier that several white women are part of the women’s groups who organized the event.

In addition, some of the district’s toughest critics are black. The district’s parent activist group, the District Parent Coordinating Council, is racially mixed. Both the council president and the state education commissioner are African-American.

“If people want to read race in there, that’s unfortunate for them,” Grant said.

Grant, the final speaker at the rally, noted, “This is about a woman who needs our support. Write letters to the School Board. Write letters to the newspaper. We are her bully pulpit. We should see the handwriting on the wall and attend every School Board meeting.”

With that, she revived the chant: “Stand your ground. Stand your ground.”

News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan contributed to this report. email: