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State grants Buffalo school administrators internship certificates

Two high-ranking Buffalo school administrators who do not have the certification to be district leaders are likely to continue working for the district with “internship certificates” that they just received.

The state Education Department confirmed Monday that Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander were granted internship certificates over the weekend. These certificates were given to the two administrators for having completed half of the requirements necessary for full district leader certification.

That essentially makes them interns who will have no authority to do any unsupervised district-level work but can still be employed by the district and earn their same six-figure salaries.

Several board members said Superintendent Pamela Brown has the board votes she needs to keep both women on staff even though they are still not considered certified administrators.

“In fact, they are not ‘certified’ at all,” stated Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman. “Rather, each now holds an ‘internship certificate’ – which simply authorizes them to serve as interns, under supervision, within the school system.”

He added that the certificates allow Williams and Alexander to do what the district decides they can do, within limits, while under supervision.

“Neither Dr. Williams nor Dr. Alexander holds any kind of administrative certification that would allow them to act as school district leaders,” he further clarified.

The board will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday to vote on the continued employment of Williams, chief of curriculum, assessment and instruction; and Alexander, one of four chiefs of school leadership responsible for direct oversight of schools.

Both women were placed on unpaid administrative leave after board member Carl Paladino publicized the fact that neither woman had the certification that their job descriptions and employment contracts require.

Board member Jason McCarthy said that teachers receive no more than 30 days to gain the proper certification before being suspended without pay, and that until now, administrators have received only a 40-day grace period.

“Why is there a special privilege for these two administrators?” said McCarthy. “Why is it they get special circumstances over a teacher?”

Board members interviewed in recent days said that as of last week, Brown has at least five board votes that would enable Williams and Alexander to remain employed until they become fully certified district leaders.

Those in support of retaining Williams and Alexander have said both women are filling vital roles in their respective jobs and that firing them won’t help the district accomplish what needs to be done to educate children in the district.

It would be difficult to hire anyone to fill those two slots on short notice, especially with so few months left in the school year, they said. Leaving those positions vacant ultimately does more harm than good, they asserted.

Even a few board members who disapprove of Williams’ and Alexander’s employment have said they’re not sure it’s worth opposing Brown’s wishes since she and her hand-picked administrative team may be swept out after the upcoming board election.

Both Alexander and Williams have district-level certifications in other states, but board member James Sampson said it apparently became clear in November that gaining reciprocal district leader certification in New York would be a heavier lift than first anticipated.

The district subsequently spent $13,000 in local grant money to enroll Alexander and Williams in a superintendent development program through Oswego State College.

The hope was for both women to take courses that would fast-track them for district-level “Transitional D” certification.

But it turns out that Oswego is not one of the sites eligible to offer that transitional certification.

The best the school could do was give Williams and Alexander enough credit for past work/college experience to make them immediately eligible for internship certificates.

Internship certificates are typically geared toward teachers, not district administrators.

“The public should be outraged,” Sampson said. “Or maybe they’re so numb, they don’t pay attention anymore.”

He said he believes both women still need to earn 30 additional college credit hours to gain full district leader certification.

With the internship certificate, they would have up to two years to do this.

The board discussed the possibility of Williams and Alexander returning to the district as interns during a closed-session near the end of Wednesday’s regular board meeting.

A vote was delayed because several board members requested that the two administrators and members of the district’s Human Resources Department be interviewed to determine how the certification problems unfolded.