BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The Buffalo School Board voted Wednesday night not to terminate the contract of Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown, 5-4.
News 4 reported earlier Wednesday that the vote was split down the middle 4-4, with only one school board member left undecided. In the end, the four men on the board voted that Dr. Brown's contract should be terminated, while the five women on the board voted to keep the superintendent in place.
Before the school board met, supporters of Dr. Brown gathered on the steps of City Hall, saying the superintendent deserves more time to implement changes. But they add that even given the short amount of time Brown has headed the district, there have already been positive changes through her leadership.
"She's done what no one else could in one year," said Charley Fisher. "Now she's going to build on that."
Once the school board gathered in Common Council chambers, the public comment period began, and many shared their opinions on whether Brown should stay or go. The board then went into executive session, and when they returned to chambers, they added Carl Paladino's motion to terminate Brown to the agenda.
Dr. Brown had the opportunity to speak before the motion went up for a vote. She told board members that she "was thrilled" to come to Buffalo and that she felt now was the time to make a "significant difference in the lives of the children in this district."
The superintendent argued she knew of Buffalo's challenges before arriving, like graduation rates, absenteeism, and needed resources in schools. She pointed out that under her leadership, the graduation rate went from 48 percent to 56 percent in one year's time, saying "that is not the norm."
Brown spoke passionately about her role as superintendent, saying, "I am committed to the success of every child," and that she is aiming for an 80 percent graduation rate by 2018.
After Brown spoke, board members had the chance to explain how they came to their decision before the vote.
Paladino argued, "The Buffalo School District is in such disarray, we cannot wait for on-the-job-training."
Paladino said he didn't take the vote lightly, in spite of what some may feel. And though he recognizes that Brown is a "nice lady" he said she was unprepared to handle the massive problems facing Buffalo schools.
James Sampson agreed, saying he believes Dr. Brown is passionate, but does not have the organizational leadership needed to guide the district. John Licata echoed those same thoughts when he noted that Dr. Brown's resume has no prior experience as a superintendent of an urban district listed.
And Jason McCarthy said he voted to terminate Brown's contract based on the concerns of his constituents. McCarthy says he gets calls from teacher and principals every day telling him the district does not support them and does not communicate.
But the women on the board didn't see things the same way as the men.
Sharon Belton-Cottman said the move to terminate Brown had more to do with the "money, power and egos" of the adults in the district than it did about the kids, and that Dr. Brown deserved a chance. Mary Kapsiak agreed, saying the move to terminate Brown is a "witch hunt."
Dr. Theresa Harris Tigg, the only school board member who appeared to be undecided before Wednesday's vote, spoke out about the "sideshow" of trying to have Brown fired, saying, "that's what's hurting out children today. It's a distraction. It's inexcusable. And it really needs to stop."
Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold was the last to speak before calling for a vote. She said, "You think that we have chaos now? What if we have no superintendent?"
In the end, Paladino's motion to oust Brown failed, 5-4.
Another important issue addressed by the school board on Wednesday involved Mary Guinn, who was originally appointed a deputy superintendent before being named as a consultant. Some board members had expressed concern that Guinn was still signing documents for the district and taking charge of meetings of the superintendent's cabinet, arguing that those are roles of a deputy superintendent - not a consultant. And there were further concerns over Guinn's contract with the district and the ability to measure her success.
After speaking in executive session about the issue, the board held a public vote, and decided to refer the matter to legal counsel.
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