Any doubt of a significant power shift on the Buffalo School Board disappeared with Friday’s appointment of the group’s new leadership.
Barbara Seals Nevergold will serve as president, a role she held before the outgoing majority took control in 2014.
Sharon Belton-Cottman and Theresa Harris-Tigg – who have been part of a voting bloc with Nevergold – will serve as vice presidents.
Noticeably missing from the board’s leadership were any of the three remaining members of the now-defunct majority.
“This certainly is a new day for all of us,” Nevergold said. “I echo what a lot of board members have already said about wanting to see a board that is more cohesive, that collaborates more. And I think the way we do that is with a shared vision.”
“This is a very important time for our children and I look forward to working very hard with everyone,” she added.
In years past, members of the divided board typically elected people from both factions into leadership roles, a symbolic gesture that they were willing to share a slice of power. The last time Nevergold served as president, Jay McCarthy was one of the vice presidents. When the former reform majority took over in 2014, they allowed Harris-Tigg to keep her spot as vice president.
But after a bitter two years that drove a deeper wedge between the two factions on the board, this time is different.
To some extent, the leadership roles are largely figurehead positions whose holders serve as liaisons between their fellow board members and the superintendent. They facilitate meetings and have private meetings with the superintendent.
The president, however, has the power to appoint board members to lead committees, which generate policy, make budget suggestions and control things such as the superintendent’s evaluation.
Nevergold also will appoint representatives to the Joint Schools Construction Board, which oversaw the $1.3 billion reconstruction of schools that is now raising questions about how much developer LP Ciminelli profited.
The push to find out how much the company profited from the publicly funded project has been led by members of the now-defunct majority, primarily Carl P. Paladino and Larry Quinn. The issue has become so contentious that both parties have filed lawsuits against each other, and a Ciminelli spokesperson said the company would pour money into May’s School Board election in an effort to oust majority members.
It is not clear exactly how much money or influence the company ultimately put into the races, which resulted in McCarthy and James Sampson losing their seats.
The last time Nevergold served as president, she refused to appoint Paladino to the construction board, and it is likely she will remove him from the position.