To: R. Nils Olsen, Jr. and Jeanette Mongold-Robe
From: Carl P.Paladino
Date: March 4, 2014
Re: Buffalo Public Schools (BPS)
I have read your op-Ed of February 26, 2014 presumably in response to my earlier memo, both attached below.
You say the BPS is facing an “unprecedented fiscal crisis.” You go on to eloquently and correctly describe why, illustrating that you have been informed on this issue for some time. Nevertheless, you don’t explain why you have remained a soft control board rather than going hard. Your memo is a clear admission of irresponsibility and breach of your fiscal oversight responsibility to the taxpayers.
The fiscal incompetency of the lame majority of the Board of Education and its Superintendent has been evident since the Superintendent arrived and hid in her office for the first 6 months. The CFO was in fact required to make a written request with question to be asked to get an appointment with the CEO.
You put your competency in question when you stated that “efforts to remove the Superintendent divert attention and will have little effect on the problem.” Are you clueless? You cannot begin to rebuild the chaotic and dysfunctional BPS without competent leadership and everyone in the community with half a brain knows that the present Superintendent is not competent to lead. It is her inability to address the problems you describe that prolongs and frustrates any effort to repair the dysfunction. Did you make that statement to placate George Arthur and Frank Messiah, two washed up African American leaders who were nothing more than parasites on their community for the years that they held power? In the interests of self-empowerment they denied their own community the opportunity to exit the cycle of poverty.
The BPS is a train wreck but your attitude that the only solution will be devastating to the children is off the reservation. I agree with most of your facts and assumptions, but your conclusion of limiting the resolution options to the framework of the status quo is unacceptable.
The taxpayers and parents don’t care about the various constituencies that have been feeding off of the children’s education allocation. The central and immediate goal of the taxpayer is solely to provide a quality and viable education for our children and if that means that the BPS must be dismantled, or the public employee contracts abrogated or employee benefits denied, or whatever, then so be it. You are expected to support and guide that effort. If you, like the sisterhood, are not capable of facing down the status quo then get out of the way because we have had enough of the rhetoric and phony concern and it is time for real leaders to step up and end the nonsense.
When will the BFSA assume its responsibilities and go hard?
Another Voice: Buffalo schools are facing a fiscal crisis that demands cost reductions
on February 27, 2014 – 12:10 AM
By R. Nils Olsen Jr. and Jeanette Mongold-Robe
The Buffalo School District is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, the resolution of which can only have a devastating impact on its students.
Graduation rates are roughly 50 percent, falling to 35 percent after eliminating schools with admission requirements. Only nine of 53 schools are in good standing. In addition, there is a projected budget deficit of $135 million over the next three years.
Efforts to remove the superintendent divert attention and will have little effect on the problem. The district’s budget issues are structural: teachers and administrators out of contract for 10 years; mandated annual step increases to salaries; ever-escalating costs of the 100 percent district-funded health insurance plans for teachers and administrators; unimaginable current non-pension retirement obligations of more than $1.8 billion; and increased charter school costs.
Over the last two years, the district used $27 million of reserves to continue current operations and plans to use $70 million more over the next four years. Using reserves is unsustainable, as these are one-time funding sources.
Even after using these funds, the district has a remaining projected structural budget deficit of roughly $100 million. Being dependent primarily on the city and state for funding, its only choice is to reduce costs.
To do so, it will need to slash teaching positions, increase class sizes, eliminate bus aides and reduce non-classroom teachers (such as guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers), non-mandated teacher aides, and non-mandated programs (including before- and after-school programs, summer school, athletics and supplemental music and arts). The past wage freeze imposed by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority has provided savings of $135 million; without these funds the district would have already been forced to implement drastic cuts.
There has been no action by the Board of Education to develop a coherent plan to address the projected budget shortfalls. Accordingly, the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority has required the district to identify funds to be used to offset the structural deficit and to discuss all likely negative effects on student learning outcomes.
The district’s crisis threatens the education of its students while causing damage to the City of Buffalo. A school district in crisis can only have a negative impact on its hosting community. It is critical that children are able to obtain a quality education. A good start would be for all engaged organizations and individuals to work together to achieve reasonable legislative change and affordable labor agreements with district teachers and administrators.
R. Nils Olsen Jr. is chairman of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority. Jeanette Mongold-Robe is the authority’s executive director.