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Hiring of officials lacking proper certification shows a superintendent unable to lead

Here’s the latest from Buffalo’s bewildered school superintendent. Speaking late Thursday about a personnel matter, Pamela C. Brown, apparently with a straight face, observed that, “It has come to our attention that there are two individuals whose certifications are in question. Until those questions are resolved, I, as the superintendent, have determined that it is in the best interest of the district to place them in a leave status.”

Where do you begin? “It has come to our attention”? It was all over The Buffalo News based on a public complaint by School Board Member Carl Paladino on Tuesday.

And how did it only just come to Brown’s attention when she was the one who hired them? Either she isn’t paying attention or she’s playing fast and loose with the facts. Either way, she doesn’t offer the caliber of leadership that the city needs in its troubled school district.

The issue involves Yamilette Williams, chief of curriculum, assessment and instruction, and Faith Morrison Alexander, chief of school leadership. Each has only a conditional certificate to serve as a school principal in New York State, not as a districtwide administrator, according to the State Education Department. Both possess district leadership certification in other states, but need to pass state exams before earning permanent certification here.

It is just an oversight? That’s possible, of course, and it may be a formality for both women to be certified. They were hired by Mary Guinn, with whom they shared previous employment as consultants with the Arizona-based Evans Newton educational firm. If the district is going to play favorites with its hiring policies, it at least needs to be sure that the leaders it hires are properly certified for their positions.

“It has come to our attention”? Who is Brown kidding?

Indeed, Brown has a habit of using slippery language when she’s cornered. Under intense pressure from the state for the district’s repeated failure to submit properly completed documents last year, her nonchalance was more befitting Glinda the good witch than a school leader whose performance is seriously and obviously lacking. Does she really think no one notices?

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. was blunt. Speaking last year with The Buffalo News editorial board, he observed that the district has a history of “shading the facts” as a way of defending its chronic failures to meet administrative requirements. What is more, he said, it’s been a pattern not shared by the state’s other troubled school districts. The difference between them and Buffalo? Their leaders.

It’s plain that Brown isn’t up to what is, after all, the Herculean task of turning around a dysfunctional district saddled with a dysfunctional teachers union. She’s not even up to a blunt acknowledgment of the district’s failures under her administration. Instead, she blunders from one accident to the next, soft-pedaling failure, rejecting assistance and treating the board with impertinence.

It’s enough. We need someone else.