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Ogilvie taps a highly qualified deputy as School Board provides a show of dysfunction

Here’s what is so nice about having an intensely concerned educator come out of retirement to become interim superintendent for the Buffalo Public Schools: He can look for others like him and the district can reap the benefits.

Donald A. Ogilvie picked Linda L. Cimusz, a retired Williamsville administrator, as his chief academic officer.

What we know about Cimusz is that she is immensely qualified and that she, too, doesn’t seem to need the job. She wants it, and her breadth of experience should help a troubled district.

Among her attributes, she has decades of experience overseeing curriculum and accountability at the local and state levels. Much of her job will consist of supporting schools as they implement the state’s new Common Core standards and helping to identify the best education strategies for improving student performance.

There are no such worries with Cimusz, 65. Before her 15 years as an assistant superintendent for instruction in the Williamsville Central School District, she was deputy superintendent for instruction in the Syracuse School District. She also oversaw the successful turnaround effort at that district’s Fowler High School.

And she spent time in Texas as a deputy education commissioner, where she led statewide reform efforts that laid the groundwork for the state’s aggressive push for more accountability in the late 1990s. Since retiring from Williamsville in 2011, she has worked as the director of academics at the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart.

On top of that is her contract, for up to two years with no benefits or provision for termination payments. She will earn a salary of $160,000.

Ogilvie says he has plans for restructuring the district’s Central Office, which in previous administrations has been top-heavy.

That will be a welcome change in the district. What isn’t changing, so far, is the level of School Board dysfunction.

Ogilvie had to struggle to introduce Cimusz to the board Wednesday. Why? Because of infighting. Again.

This battle centered on whether the board would reimburse board member Jason M. McCarthy for private legal advice he needed to respond to a complaint filed by the four members of the School Board minority seeking McCarthy’s removal from office. They alleged that he violated state law and board policy by sharing information from an executive session with the media.

The time spent bickering Wednesday is just the latest example of the board’s dysfunction and the uphill fight the district faces. Ogilvie and Cimusz patiently waited in the audience for the entire 3½-hour meeting, hours over schedule. And even then Ogilvie had to leap out of his seat and wave his hands to get the board’s attention.

Later, he wistfully noted, “I’d love to see even a half-hour, or an hour of discussion on what’s happening in the classrooms of Buffalo.”

So would we.