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School Board again reverts to bickering

Irritated commentary from the public and extended bickering among board members marked a long Buffalo School Board meeting that ran well past 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Many determinations were made regarding leasing buildings to charter schools and how students should be treated if they opt out of state assessment tests.

Board member Carl Paladino’s resolutions, which included firing School Superintendent Donald Ogilvie, had not yet been decided as the meeting continued well into the night.

Among the issues that were decided:

• The Buffalo School Board has dumped the idea of leasing vacant schools to charter schools. Instead, the board majority is asking that two vacant buildings be returned to the city, with the board majority hoping that the city will consider offering them to charter schools.

Board members voted 8-1 on a resolution that would return vacant School 8 and vacant School 40 to the city. The resolution includes a request that the city consider leasing these two buildings to interested charter school operators. Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman voted against it.

The resolution, sponsored by board member Larry Quinn, originally called for the district to lease five vacant or could-be-made-vacant school buildings directly to charter schools. After further review, however, he narrowed his resolution to two vacant school buildings.

The board chose to revert the buildings to the city after learning two things:

The Buffalo Common Council issued a letter Tuesday indicating that it is not legally permissible for the Buffalo School Board to lease any city-owned buildings – which the vast majority of Buffalo school district buildings are. In addition, board majority members learned that if the district attempted to lease buildings to charters, charter schools would be required to utilize district staff custodians, which would increase charter school costs.

• The board unanimously adopted a districtwide policy that would permit students who refuse to take the state standardized test to read alternate material. The resolution, submitted by board member Barbara Nevergold, is meant to end the practice derisively referred to as “sit-and-stare” that does not permit other students to do any other alternate work other than read the assessment being given to students.

Until now, each district school was allowed to determine how to address students who wish to opt out of state assessments.

• The board argued over whether it’s appropriate for the board majority to hire a deputy superintendent with the intention of sliding that person into the superintendent’s seat. The board majority members have stated they want a deputy hired who could slide into the top job and immediately address the many issues facing the district.

“We need someone who can hit the ground running,” said board member Jason McCarthy.

Board minority bloc members pointed out that the deputy superintendent job description doesn’t mention the fact that the candidate may soon assume the superintendent’s seat. Ogilvie has indicated he plans to leave the district at the end of the school year.

“That’s not fair,” said board member Theresa Harris-Tigg.

Ogilvie stated there are 10 candidates for the deputy superintendent’s seat and that he has informed all of the candidates that it’s possible the candidate may be expected to assume the superintendent’s seat upon his departure, though it’s not certain.

The resolution by the board minority bloc to conduct a search for a permanent superintendent failed 5-4.

• Ogilvie sent a letter to parents Wednesday stating that parents who keep their students from taking state assessment tests could hurt their chances of getting into their desired high school, but the decision will not disqualify them from consideration. Ogilvie points out in the letter, posted on the district’s website and referenced in automated calls to parents, that state guidelines allow school districts to include state assessment test results as “one of various measures used to determine admissions into schools.”

• The board asked its legal counsel for advice on a request

from Charter School for Applied Technologies to place a bus drop off on the Kenmore side of the charter school’s property instead of the Buffalo side.

For a full review of Wednesday’s board meeting, review the live coverage on the School Zone blog at www.buffalonews.com/schoolzone

email: stan@buffnews.com