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Human resources chief may be named Buffalo Schools interim superintendent

The Buffalo school district’s associate superintendent for human resources appears to be the current front-runner to lead the district on July 1 after interim Superintendent Donald A. Ogilvie steps down.

Barring any last-minute plot twists, Darren J. Brown could be named interim superintendent as soon as Wednesday night’s board meeting.

The School Board is scheduled to meet in closed session at 4 p.m., an hour prior to the regular meeting. Among the issues to be discussed is the selection of an interim superintendent and an update on the search for a permanent superintendent.

“He’s in charge of human resources,” said board member Jason M. McCarthy, who recommended Brown for the temporary post. “He’s in charge of personnel and getting the schools started for the year. That’s what you’re doing over the summer is preparing of the fall. It only makes sense.”

Brown, 41, is well respected among both majority- and minority-bloc board members and is credited with fixing many problems that had plagued the Human Resources Department prior to his appointment to the department by former interim Superintendent Amber M. Dixon in November 2011.

Brown would not be a contender for the permanent superintendent position and was taken by surprise to even be considered for the interim post, since he wasn’t looking for the job.

Though he appears to have general support from the board minority bloc, as well as the respect of the board majority, not all members of the majority are in agreement about naming Brown as interim so soon.

Board member Carl P. Paladino described Brown as “an honorable man” but believes the board should name Principal Kevin J. Eberle to the superintendent’s seat on July 1. He and other members of the board majority criticized members of the minority bloc for being unwilling to schedule candidate interviews for the permanent position until they’ve received more information from prospective candidates.

By July 1, Paladino said, many top picks for superintendent will likely have accepted offers elsewhere.

“I don’t want to address the interim superintendent until we have interviews scheduled for a permanent superintendent,” he said. “Delay is not acceptable.”

Eberle is currently principal of Harvey Austin School 97 and is a candidate for the permanent superintendent seat. But he does not currently have the votes necessary to win appointment to the interim position.

Moreover, based on advice from the district’s outside legal counsel, board President James M. Sampson said that it would be inappropriate for any candidate for the permanent superintendent’s seat to be considered for the interim job.

Further complicating matters is the fact that board member Larry Quinn is out of the country, leaving the board majority in need of supporting votes from the minority bloc to accomplish anything until Quinn returns from vacation this weekend. Most board members say they need to have someone ready to go on July 1 and that this not a matter that should be further delayed.

Majority members had seen Kenneth Slentz, the state’s former deputy commissioner of education, as a top candidate for the permanent superintendent job. But after applying, he subsequently withdrew his name from consideration last week, leaving the board with no clear front-runner for the permanent job.

Seven men currently remain interested in the permanent position – three internal candidates and four candidates from out of state. The internal candidates include Eberle, Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes and Gregory D. Mott, principal of Grabiarz School of Excellence.

Brown, meanwhile, is expected to give a board presentation on his priorities as interim superintendent in closed session Wednesday prior to the start of the open meeting.

Brown joined the Buffalo Public Schools in late 2003. He served as principal for two years at Community School 53, an elementary school; and assistant principal of South Park High School for another two years. He had been serving as principal of the Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts since 2008, prior to his appointment to the Central Office.

Prior to coming to Buffalo, Brown was a math teacher at Sweet Home High School, then left the field and gained his master’s in business administration before serving as a banking administrator for two years. Brown then returned to teaching in the Buffalo Public Schools and moved up the ranks.

Aside from an MBA, Brown also holds his school administrator certificate and an advanced certificate in school business and human resource administration from the University at Buffalo.

“We’re just looking for a placeholder,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we’re looking at Darren Brown, who is already getting the buildings up and running and staffed for the school year.”