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Viewpoints: Board must focus on meeting the needs of Buffalo’s students

By Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

Over the last few days, I have gotten numerous calls from constituents who were perplexed and dismayed by an article written by Buffalo School Board member Carl P. Paladino, published in the July 30 Buffalo News. They wanted to know my response to Paladino’s claims and assertions.

Certainly, there is much to respond to in an article that is riddled with outright lies, distortions, unsubstantiated allegations and threats. One would be hard-pressed to find the “evidence” of the conspiracy to rig the district’s contract with the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

There is nothing in five days of testimony documented in thousands of pages by a court reporter or in several briefs from Paladino’s own attorneys that corroborate this charge. In fact, these documents are public records that are accessible to the press and the public.

Further, Paladino’s attorneys had the opportunity to question any number of witnesses, myself included, about this alleged collusion. They didn’t.

There is much to respond to in an article that projects the underlying anger, misogyny and mean-spirited nature of the writer. Indeed, there is much to respond to in an article that has been written by a man who appears to have decided that he has nothing to lose, who never apologizes and doubles down rather than accept responsibility for his actions.

His request that New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia remove the “entire Board of Education for cause” and appoint a “competent special master”; his call for the Buffalo control board to reactivate its function as a regulatory board; and his invitation to the U.S. attorney to initiate an investigation are all based on his view, i.e., his conjecture of the course of events, the intentions and the actions of six board members, the BTF president and the superintendent.

Paladino’s depiction of a complex, yearslong negotiation process is primarily delivered in a “narrator” role, which conveniently allows Paladino to exclude himself and his actions from the scenario.

The secrecy that Paladino alludes to reprises assertions that have appeared in a series of editorial/opinion pieces in The News questioning the use of executive session and intimating violations of the open meetings law. In a recent interview with Rod Watson, I stated that the motions to initiate executive sessions were not illegal; that the format of those motions were often crafted by the board’s attorney and were not substantially different than those of other public boards; that the board uses executive sessions to discuss matters which, by law, require confidentiality such as matters related to bargaining unit negotiations or personnel issues.

The petition to Elia for Paladino’s removal was based on his violation of the duty to maintain the confidentiality of executive session.

On the same day that Paladino’s attack article appeared, The News ran a major front-page story that should cause grave concern to every adult in this community and motivate collaborative action. Too many of our children are exposed to or witness violence resulting in trauma that negatively impacts their quality of life and their academic achievement. This is not the time to get distracted by the self-centered, self-serving actions of one board member.

Finally, my response to Paladino is: Consider the children you profess to represent! I will continue to focus on the work that I and my fellow School Board members are doing, which centers on addressing the myriad and complex academic, social and emotional needs of the 34,000 children in our district.

Barbara A. Seals Nevergold is president of the Buffalo Board of Education.

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