Larry Summers, the candidate to head up the Federal Reserve Bank, recently said “Public Education in the US today is like communist Russia in its heyday. Both systems exist to serve the provider and not the customer/student. In Russia people used to bribe the butcher to get a thicker cut of beef. Today we placate to the teachers to keep them happy and loyal to politicians, special interests, etc. There is nothing about our public education model that prioritizes the students.”
My hope is to encourage you to see what is so obvious to everyone else in the community, but first you should stop complaining about me and address the critical issues now before the BOE in a fair, open and just manner. I’m a bad itch that will not go away and I am not capable of being intimidated. I also take exception to the references to training me. I don’t need training. I have common sense.
You have had communications with the State that have not been shared with all BOE members. You are only the president of the BOE. You don’t rule it. Please get into the habit of sharing with the full BOE every communication with the SED.
I would like to know the schedule and location for School Reconstruction meetings and I would like you to tell me at an open meeting why I can’t serve or attend its meetings.
Some follow ups to my Agenda memo of August 16, 2013.
Issue # 30 Dismissal of the Superintendent
The Superintendent has had communications with SED that have not been shared with all BOE members which violates the resolution passed by the BOE.
The cozy symbiosis of local and State Democratic politicians (Sean Ryan and Crystal Peoples), the inner city Grassroots organization and the BPS teacher and administrator unions is also a breach of the public trust. The Education Cabal supported and financed their ill feelings toward me and their affection for certain BOE members in the recent election. This is a root cause of the BPS dysfunction.
The Superintendent and those BOE members who deny change denigrate the public trust to protect the interests of the people and children of the City of Buffalo. The “we against them” attitude of members of the BOE is directly contrary to the primary mission of educating our children. The open comments of BOE members and the Superintendent abhorring Charters, and lying about the competency and extent of the BPS’ slowly evolving CTE program, in their effort to deny and delay outsourcing to BOCES and Charters, reveal their failure to recognize their basic responsibilities.
Contrary members of the BOE revert to crude demagoguery or play the race card when there is no meritorious reason to deny good structural reforms. The BOE has, over the years, given up an enormous amount of management prerogative, wildly unsustainable health and pension benefits and most importantly, they have supported the installation of superintendents, who may be well intended, but are weak and incompetent to do the job.
The search criteria for the present Superintendent was limited by reactionary and racist BOE members who demanded a weak, minority, female candidate from someplace else who could then be controlled by complicit BOE members. They picked and made great fanfare over Pamela Brown’s one feature, which had nothing at all to do with the job of Superintendent, that being her PhD from Harvard. Thousands of people have PhDs from Harvard. The fact is that she had never been a Superintendent anywhere. She’s a linguistics teacher. No other qualified minority wanted the job of turning around a chaotic and dysfunctional school system wrought with incompetence, corruption and a collectively incapable BOE. That doesn’t say much for Pamela Brown.
Why must the children of the BPS suffer even one day for lack of competent top down leadership? The evidence is clear. We are now spending $850,000/year for superintendent services because the incompetent Superintendent Pamela Brown must be propped up by an “outside consultant,” Mary Guinn.
Issue #3 Reorganization and Mary Guinn
Why was staff told to bury in a grant, under a Cross and Justice consulting contract, Mary Guinn’s salary of $380,000, all of her travel costs to and from wherever she goes and her meal and hotel bills at the Embassy Suites? Who negotiated that sweetheart deal? Why wasn’t BOE approval required? Why hasn’t the BOE seen her contract, her resume, her title, her connections to BOE members and consultants and her job description? Who gave her authority? Was that one of the other “sharing” moments in an illegal small group meeting? I’ve made repeated requests for that information and I’ve been stonewalled, apparently at your direction.
Yamilette Williams is now the Deputy Superintendent of Schools regardless of her title. She has never met or been approved by the BOE. We have not seen her contract or salary arrangement. She has worked for Mary Guinn’s Edison Company for the past three years in three different school districts.
You supported the Superintendent’s lie that despite the barrage of recent hiring’s, there was $1 million in budget savings when, in fact, just to take one example, there is no approved budget line for the hiring of Patrick Fanelli. He is not grant-funded either.
You have also supported the nonsense that the 4 Community Superintendents were entitled to $14,000 raises because their job descriptions were expanded. Let’s do the math. We started with 3 Community Superintendents, (who in the minds of principals were incompetent and unresponsive), for 57 schools which amounts to19 schools per person. We then added a new position to get 4 Community Superintendents with responsibility for 14 schools per person and also created 5 new positions of Supervising Principals to assist them. Where did we specifically give Community Superintendents expanded responsibilities? I would like proof where all of that was approved in the budget. Isn’t it true that Mary Guinn wanted to hire her good friend Faith Alexander very badly and wanted to pay her more money than the job called for, so she gave all of them raises?
Also why did we hire principals from out of state and out of our system? The morale of all those principals who worked hard for merit promotions was skewed in prior years by Mark Frasier, who appointed incompetents from the Crystal Barton and BOE friends and family clubs most of whom are now located in failed schools. Now, under the new regime, they have been shoved to the back of the line again so Mary Guinn can bring in her cast of misfits from someplace else. You just can’t make this stuff up.
All that and at the same time the BPS is depriving its students of a music program and other basic services. Reactionary racism cannot deal with serious reform of the iconic education systems of the 20th century.
Issue #31 Outsourcing
BPS unions feel entitled to extraordinary benefits and work rules that they bargained away from weak, union inclined Boards of Education in the past. The benefits and work rule rights they have are outrageous. Nevertheless, good and well intentioned teachers and principals keep their self-absorbed and corrupted leadership in place. Considering the web of contractual rights, laws, rules and lack of interest in changing the status quo by our disengaged legislative delegation, reformists have few weapons to use. One very powerful tool is the outsourcing of education. Used effectively, outsourcing will eventually bring teachers and principals to the conclusion that their leaders are the major problem holding them hostage.
Retiree Health Care costs have skyrocketed to $66.6 million for 4000 plus retirees amounting to $16,600/retiree/year. Union leaders still demand more and use as a tactic the art of standing in the way on everything imaginable.
BPS spends $29,000/year/student after payments to Charters and still can’t make ends meet. As a result responsible representatives of the people say it’s time to outsource education. Charters receive only $12,000/year /student.
Issue #22 Motion #34 Tenure
The motion presented in the memo of August 16, 2013 is withdrawn and the following motion is submitted.
I move that the Board of Education instruct the Superintendent to immediately standstill on all tenure approvals and denials for principals and/or teachers pending a complete review by the Board of Education of the current tenure policy to ensure equity, objectivity and fairness to the process.
Five principals were given a written notice a week ago that they were being denied tenure. The general reasons given for the actions were unsupported by evaluations or other evidence. The denials appear to be the result of intimidation and recrimination against the individuals for having spoken out or a personality clash with one of their supervisors. A supervisor, for lack of objectivity, should not be the final judge on the award or denial of tenure. The bias of union leaders should not be involved in the process.
Pending the standstill the principals have committed to waive off their right to the granting of tenure by estoppel, which documents should be prepared by counsel and executed by the principals.
The issuance of a JUUL to teachers and/or principals is the kiss of death on their résumé when applying for other positions. Union leaders conspiring to recriminate against employees for speaking out on issues is an indicator that there is extensive criminal corruption in the Buffalo Public Schools. Playing games with people’s lives should not be an option.
The Superintendent should be ashamed for allowing the tenure decision making process to have denigrated to the point where union leaders and biased community superintendents are allowed to make final judgments on tenures without an objective hearing. Principals who met with the Superintendent on Friday of last week were coerced into signing a JUUL at the last minute, for no good reason other than the school administration delayed the process purposely to the last minute.