Powerful Buffalo School Board members would welcome “czar”

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo School Board President Jim Sampson and member Carl Paladino said they would welcome a state education “czar” to help the struggling district turn around failing schools.

“If that’s the state law and if it’s clear that we’re not able to move fast enough, quick enough, and effectively enough to get the job done, I think it’s my responsibility to step aside and be supportive of that” Sampson said in a News 4 interview.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has targeted education reform as a priority in his second term.

“Today we have two education systems if we want to tell the truth,” the Governor said during his inaugural address. “One for the rich and one for the poor. And if you happen to be born in the wrong zip code, and go to a failing school, you will get left behind and never catch up.”

Cuomo is being asked by leaders of the State’s Board of Regents and Education Department to seek new legislation that would allow the state to potentially dissolve a struggling school board and bypass teacher’s union rules that might limit flexibility in the way schools are run.

“Put him up there and empower him and we’re going to welcome him in here,” said Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino, referring to the concept of a state “czar”stepping in.  However, Paladino added “it can’t be a political operation. You got to keep politics out of it.”

Not everyone sees it that way.

Many groups including some Western New York teachers unions demonstrated outside the Buffalo History Museum, where Governor Cuomo was giving his second inaugural speech of the day.

“I feel like this is a union busting effort,” said Eve Shippens, a delegate with the Buffalo Teachers Federation. She feared “they’re going to come in and take away democratic and public control of the public schools here, and they’re going to come in and undo the contracts.”

Marsha Phillips, Chair of the Buffalo Parent Teachers Association said “Who gives someone the power?  A czar! I mean in the United States of America we’re talking about a czar taking over districts and eliminating board power, and just never even giving the parents a voice to be heard.”

That view is disputed by Sam Radford, President of the District Parent Coordinating Council in Buffalo. He believes the state may have to become more deeply involved in the Buffalo School District. He points out that hundreds of students who wish to leave failing schools have been unable to attend schools in good standing.

Governor Cuomo said in his Buffalo address “Albany has been too concerned with protecting the pension rights of teachers and not concerned enough with the future of students.”


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