To: Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent and BOE
From: Carl Paladino
Date: December 23, 2013
The Sisterhood of the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education and its Superintendent are hypocrites who ostensibly condemn the cycle of poverty while in fact promoting it for their own self-serving interests of holding power and the control of money and jobs. In positions that far exceed their level of competence, their lies and scheming are so entrenched that they show no shame even for their most obvious failures. For decades the private sector and governmental leadership, afraid of the race card and condemned to political correctness, embraced the hands off approach and left thousands of good souls behind to languish in urban decay.
At a subcommittee meeting of the Buffalo Board of Education (BOE) last week, CFO Barbara Smith made a shocking presentation on the horrific state of the finances of the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) as of November 30, 2013.
The budget for the present school fiscal year, approved by the prior BOE, had a $31 million operating and maintenance deficit and was only balanced after the irresponsible transfer of $31 million from reserves. During the school year, that budget deficit has now risen to $35 million and there are still additional financial burdens that need to be addressed.
Implementation of a State required physical education program could cost over $2 million and a severely watered down “After School Program” After School Program could cost up to $8 million.
Preliminary numbers for next year are showing a $45 million budget deficit. BPS unrestricted reserves total only $43 million.
The reasons for the deficits are grossly negligent management, a lack of transparency and incompetence, with a slathering of bad attitude by both the BOE leadership and the Superintendent.
The Hallmark of the “Say Yes” program was the After School Program designed to bring BPS students up to standard to prepare for college. The agreement was memorialized in a Memorandum of Understanding executed by BOE President Ruth Kapsiak and Superintendent Pamela Brown. The cost to BPS for the first school year starting July, 2013 was $14 million which was repeatedly promised to Say Yes by the Superintendent and the BOE leadership.
Working in good faith that the funding would be available, Say Yes proceeded to design the After School Program with community and parental group partners and even paid for forensic audits of BPS finances to point out areas where savings could be recognized to pay for the After School Program. The audits were presented to the Superintendent and the BOE in 2012 but then apparently summarily disregarded. When it became time to implement the After School Program, Say Yes found that the Superintendent and BOE had budgeted nothing, nil, in this year’s budget. Yamilette Williams, an unemployed and clueless appointee brought in by Mary Guinn, was assigned to implement the unfunded program but spent months dodging phone calls and being unresponsive.
The initial Cross and Joftus re-organization plan called for a $5.7 million budget savings by eliminating many unnecessary positions in the bloated, centralized administrative bureaucracy. After presentation of the plan, the savings was lost due to interference by unions and individual board members who wanted to preserve jobs for their friends and family clubs. The final re-organization plan resulted in extra costs estimated at well over $3 million, a $8.7 million swing.
The Reorganization plan, developed and changed on the run by the insular Superintendent and Leadership Consultant, created chaos and depressed morale by hiring, for critical supervisory positions, previously unemployed people from outside the region with no identifiable special qualities other than being part of the Mary Guinn friends and family club.
The plan also further centralized supervisory staff and instead of replacing incompetent principals with qualified achievers who earned the positions based on merit, they kept the unfit and now spend millions on consultants for on the job training on how to be a principal.
Where is their common sense? Hire qualified people, empower them and then hold them accountable for the performance of their schools.
When Florence Johnson advocated segregation by saying that “African-American children should only be educated in a school system supervised by African-Americans,” she charted the course now followed by the sisterhood majority of the BOE and the Superintendent, twisting time proven rules on how to run a school system and wasting an enormous amount of time and money implementing a re-organization plan doomed to failure.
On the whim of James Williams, the BOE wasted millions buying its own DATA centers to replace the otherwise quality service provided by BOCES in the past because the Sisterhood majority on the BOE hate BOCES as passionately as they detest the State Education Department and the Commissioner.
Millions more were wasted on BPS Joint School Reconstruction Program by simply not having a qualified specialist owner representative supervise the $1.4 billion project.
BPS has an overcapacity of more than 2,000 desks. The BOE and Superintendent have failed to timely consolidate schools and shut down buildings that are very costly to maintain.
For decades, lame BPS negotiators and BOE members surrendered basic management prerogatives, fed defined benefit pension plans and awarded comprehensive lifetime health insurance to the astute union leaders like Phil Rumore, who stood over the BPS like a vulture.
BPS dysfunction is caused by (1) a lack of enforced standards, (2) centralization, (3) the election or appointment of less-than-qualified members to the BOE and (4) the appointment of the Superintendent, administrators, principals and assistant principals based on race rather than merit. A glaring example is the illogical appointment of Chiefs of School Leadership, the supervisors for principals. The Superintendent disregarded merit and appointed unqualified people who fit a racial profile. Most had previously failed as principals and therefore command no respect from the people they supervise, creating systemic chaos.
The result is a severe decay of morale, the costly hiring of consultants to teach staff how do do their jobs with no identifiable way of judging outcomes, a lack of accountability, no acceptance of responsibility and a lack of incentive for achievement.
The BPS today has 45 of 57 schools failing, 28 of them being priority schools that are so bad that severe and costly remedial action is required. Last year the BPS had a 46% graduation rate meaning that 54% of the students had dropped out. Less than 20% of black males graduated. Nine and eleven percent of our students passed the standardized statewide English and Math tests respectively.
Attendance has been a critical problem. To improve attendance the Superintendent cleverly changed the method of collecting attendance. A child is now presumed to be present unless specifically marked absent by the study hall teacher. After the rule change attendance shot right up when in reality it continues to be a problem. Inept leadership creates illusion to solve problems.
The children, parents and community beg for inspired, committed and experienced leadership focused not on the preservation of the district but rather on the education of the children. It is Incumbent on the community at large, the Western New York State legislative delegation and The State Education Department (SED) to disassemble the BPS and start over with a system designed to educate.
I will move at the next meeting that the BOE resign and request that SED appoint a special master to reorganize the BPS.