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Pridgen urges School Board to work together

Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen, concerned about what are often viewed as racially charged messages coming from the Board of Education, is urging board members to work together as a group – not as racially divided factions.

“My letter to you today,” Pridgen wrote Tuesday to all board members, “is not to take a position on your decisions and deliberations but to respectfully request that the board find a way to work together, even when there are disagreements.”

Pridgen wrote that the school district needs radical change, “but it should not result in radical division.”

“Our community and especially our children are reading, watching and listening to what is currently happening with the Board of Education. It would be tragic to focus on simply changing the direction for education while ignoring the impact that your actions have on the entire community,” he wrote.

Pridgen’s letter comes at a time when the Board of Education’s majority – four white men and one white woman – is pushing forward with a plan to hire a new school superintendent without input or concern from the board minority – four African-American women. The majority members want to hire James G. Weimer Jr., principal of Emerson School of Hospitality. The minority want a national search for a new superintendent.

Pridgen said he feels an obligation, as an African-American holding a leadership position in the city, to speak out about the importance of working together, and ensuring everyone’s voice is heard.

As he watched on television the discord occurring in Baltimore, Pridgen said, he felt he needed to send his message to the School Board. “The people have elected you to govern the school system,” he wrote. “It is imperative that Buffalo does not become a divided community like we have seen in Baltimore and other areas.”

Pridgen was a member of the School Board from 1999 to 2003. During that time, he said, members held a series of retreats that gave them a chance to understand each other. He suggested the current board do the same.

“I implore you, almost beg of you, to find a common ground to work from and be as open and as transparent as possible with each other to begin to build the bridges that our children can cross over into graduation,” he wrote.