The past year has seen administrative departures from some of Buffalo’s most beloved and important institutions. Too often, these shifts in leadership have been unexpected and unpleasant.
The turmoil and dissent at Nardin Academy under the governance of President Sandra Betters has easily been one of the most painful administrative controversies of this year or any year at a Buffalo school.
Now that Betters has announced that she will step down as of June 30, the 166-year-old Catholic institution faces an equally fraught task of healing itself – board, administrative staff, teachers, students and parents – and moving forward with its mission intact.
There is no way this will be easy. It helps that Nardin’s scholastic reputation is one of unparalleled academic excellence. The school has a national reputation for turning out skilled students well-prepared for higher education and distinguished careers. But with this stature comes great responsibility.
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The urgings of a majority of faculty members, current and former board members, and hundreds of students and parents have been heard. Betters is leaving, but those who remain will have the job of repairing any fractures left behind and – equally important – finding an effective way to continue working toward diversity, equity and inclusion in a way that embraces Nardin’s entire constituency, making all partners in progress.
Betters’ academic focus on social justice and antiracism was welcomed when she was hired at Nardin; she leaves with an important mission unfinished.
Suggestions have been made that alumnae, parents and faculty need better representation on Nardin’s board. It will also be key to make sure the next president combines collegiality, respect and the ability to step lightly with a focus on important change.
Clearly, Buffalo cares about Nardin. The school should respond with transparency and demonstrate that it can do the work.
Another departure from an institution even more widely beloved than Nardin, Shea’s Performing Arts Center, appears to have been equally needed and even helpful.
The cloud of negativity that surrounded former Shea’s president Michael Murphy, who was accused by Shea’s staff of creating a “toxic environment” and was fired in October, has been effectively dispersed. Murphy had filed a suit against Shea’s after his firing, but, as of April 7, the suit has been “discontinued.” Whatever it took to get to this resolution, the suit’s removal is good news for Shea’s.
The theater must find a successor who can not only play well with others, but also uphold Shea’s reputation for excellence and move the institution into the future, making whatever innovations and adjustments are needed.
Nardin has a similar task before it.
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