Monday, November 10, 2014

The Plan to “Disassemble” the Buffalo Schools by Dr Barbara Nevergold

When a Buffalo Board of Education member promises to “disassemble” the School District, we should question his intent and his motivation. According to the dictionary, the definition of “disassemble” is “to take (something) apart”. Synonyms for “disassemble” include: dismantle, take to pieces, break up, deconstruct, and strip down. Further, “disassemble” is a verb, an action word that connotes the concerted effort it takes to take something apart.
South District School Board member Carl Paladino is on the record talking about his plan to “disassemble” the Buffalo Public School District. Speaking before the Erie County Legislature’s Community Enrichment Committee, chaired by Legislator Kevin R. Hardwick, Paladino explained how he would dismantle the public schools: “We’re going to open charter schools; we’re going to hopefully help the privates and the Catholics to become better and be able to take more kids. We’re supporting the closing of a number of Buffalo Public Schools and turning them into charters….” He concluded by describing his (their) plan further as “…the game that we’re playing.”
This is not the first time that Paladino has spoken of his goal to “disassemble” the District Schools. In a December 2013 interview with Buffalo Rising, he pledged to make a motion that the Board of Education members resign and “request that SED (the State Education Department) appoint a special master to reorganize the BPS.” While that motion went nowhere, Paladino has waged a campaign of disruption, dissension and dysfunction. He routinely disrespects, intimidates and bullies women of color, staff members as well as members of the Board. Even with this unprofessional behavior and gross failure to support the School District that he was elected to lead, Paladino has not only voiced his plan but he has proceeded with its implementation with the support of the majority Board members, the current administration and high officials in the State Education Department.
In his own words, Paladino has made his intentions clear. But what about his motivation? A recent report from the Alliance for Quality Education, entitled “Good for Kids or Good for Carl?” examines Paladino’s business dealings with at least 6 local charter schools. This study reports that “Paladino’s companies are the leading charter school developers in Buffalo” and details his support of each of the identified charters. Following the publication of this report, the Buffalo News’ interviewed Paladino on October 22nd. He responded to the question about his conflict of interest by saying that he would be a “frigging idiot” not to take advantage of these business deals. He tried to justify the conflict by saying that he is the only developer to invest in such risky deals. Yet, it does not appear from the report that he has lost any money on his investments. It’s quite the contrary in fact.
The recent mandate from the State Education Department for four “out of time” schools, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Bennett, East and Lafayette High Schools forces the District to consider independent charter school applicants. And in order to secure those applications, the majority members of the Board voted to ask the Commissioner (prompted by SED staff) to offer an unprecedented third round for charter school applications just for Buffalo. No time was given for public input or questions. Yet, it’s not too late for the community to ask questions about the propriety of a Board member who has investments in charter school development and boldly proclaims that his game plan is “…the closing of a number of Buffalo Public Schools and turning them into charters….” If Paladino won’t answer these questions, what about asking the State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. or Western New York’s Regent, Robert Bennett?