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Buffalo School Board looking within for Ogilvie replacement

It’s no secret around town that Buffalo Schools Superintendent Donald A. Ogilvie isn’t sticking around for long.

What remains a mystery is when – and if – the School Board will search for his replacement.

Several members of the board majority now say they do not want to conduct a formal search for Ogilvie’s replacement, with some saying they want to find a candidate from within the district – possibly a school principal.

“Any formal search is dead on arrival as far as I’m concerned,” board member Carl Paladino said. “We’re going to do the same thing we did with Ogilvie. We know who we want to interview. We know what kind of person we want.”

Board member Jay McCarthy, chairman of the committee that would be responsible for any search, agreed that a search may not be worth the time and money.

“I think the thought of looking within will be the more realistic approach,” he said. “I really don’t want to waste time and money.”

It now appears that board members are leaning toward hiring a candidate from within the district, possibly tapping a principal for the position. McCarthy said there are already names floating among board members, although he declined to say who.

“I’m sure there are very progressive principals out there who know the district and haven’t been mired in that central office nonsense for years,” McCarthy said. “They’ve been in the schools, they know the problems. They have a different perspective.”

These views set the stage – yet again – for a contentious conversation on the board. Some members of the board minority, who were critical that the majority selected Ogilvie without conducting a public search, maintain that a wider search is necessary to find the best possible candidate.

“If there had been someone on staff who could step in, we would have found them already,” said board member Barbara Nevergold, adding that Buffalo needs someone with experience turning around a struggling urban school system. “It would be terribly shortsighted and narrow to confine our search to a particular geographic area and not cast a broad net.”

It has been months since the topic of the replacement of Ogilvie, who was hired as interim superintendent, came before the board for discussion. Some board members say that is because they have been distracted coming up with plans to revamp the district’s lowest-performing schools.

In October, the board voted to spend up to $25,000 to hire a Williamsville consulting firm that would help the board create a vision statement.

The board also met with a representative of the New York State School Boards Association, who advised them on the ins and outs of a search.

Following that meeting, however, most board members did not meet with the consultant, and it seems they have no intention doing so.

The topic was supposed to come up at last week’s committee meetings, but did not because most board members left to attend M&T Bank Chairman’s Robert G. Wilmers’ invitation-only state of public education address.

School Board president James Sampson said it is important the board discuss the issue as a group in the near future. He also said he thinks the board should limit the scope of its canvass to New York State.

“We are all aware Don is not going to be a long-term guy,” Sampson said. “We have to have a discussion about what we do next.”

email: tlankes@buffnews.com