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Weimer is likely pick to lead Buffalo schools

Interim Superintendent Donald A. Ogilvie is calling off the search to fill the job of deputy superintendent, and it now appears that the Buffalo School Board majority will appoint the person it wants as his replacement – James G. Weimer Jr. – directly to the top position.

In an email Thursday to School Board members, Ogilvie noted that Weimer – the Emerson School of Hospitality principal and board majority favorite – no longer wanted to be considered for the deputy post. Weimer had been vying with one other candidate, on the assumption that the new deputy would take over when Ogilvie steps down in June.

“After my consideration of many factors, including the fact that only one candidate remains by default, I believe it to be in the District’s best interests to discontinue the search to fill the Deputy Superintendent position,” Ogilvie’s email stated. “I have notified all applicants and am hereby canceling the (candidate) interviews scheduled with Cabinet and Board of Education scheduled respectively for April 24 and 27.”

The email came the day after board majority member Carl P. Paladino said during a committee meeting that the district was ending the deputy superintendent search process. Although the board majority originally wanted to hire a deputy who would ultimately slide into the superintendent spot, Paladino has in recent months advocated appointing someone directly to the position.

And in recent weeks, politics and clashing opinions have muddied the process of hiring a deputy, even as the majority made clear what it wanted and the potential consequences if Weimer were not on any shortlist that Ogilvie gave the board.

“It’s complicated our lives,” Paladino said.

“It’s my personal intention to appoint Weimer as the superintendent commencing no later than July 1,” Paladino added.

Ogilvie’s email signals a possible end to what has become an acrimonious and tumultuous process to appoint the district’s new leader. But it does not mean that tensions won’t continue after the majority makes any appointment.

In response to Ogilvie’s email, members of the minority bloc, who have been pushing for a national search for a new leader, immediately called for a special meeting of the board to discuss the next steps.

“Don et al., this is a surprising turn of events,” board member Barbara A. Seals Nevergold wrote in an email. “I have more to say about the decision that has resulted in this outcome. However, as you have pointed out, Don, the Board has the responsibility to govern and to work collaboratively in the process to select your successor. I am requesting that we keep the Monday morning meeting as a special board meeting to begin that process.”

The recent events put whoever takes Ogilvie’s place in a somewhat precarious situation, which could only escalate depending on how the board opts to move forward. Tensions are compounded by the fact that political and business leaders are now pushing for Mayor Byron W. Brown to take control of the school system.

Earlier this week, Ogilvie still grappled with the dilemma of whether he would recommend Weimer for the deputy position. He proceeded to follow his own process for vetting and interviewing candidates, despite pressure from members of the majority to tap Weimer. That included scheduling interviews for Weimer and Will Keresztes, a longtime Central Office administrator.

“I think that there’s been a lot of bullying,” board minority member Sharon M. Belton-Cottman said late Thursday. “The superintendent has been bullied out of possibly making the best decision for the district.”

Ogilvie addressed some of the tensions in his message to the board, noting various lapses in how it sought his replacement. For example, Ogilvie noted that early on, the board recruited an external consultant to help it develop a vision statement. But board members never followed through with that process.

“Circumstances over the last several months have complicated the transition process,” his email stated. “Nevertheless, the Board still has responsibility to develop a unified vision and to select your next superintendent. This should be through deliberate processes that model inclusiveness and collaboration, as the District’s governance body.”

To read Ogilvie’s email to the board, visit the School Zone blog at buffalonews.com. email: tlankes@buffnews.com