Carl Paladino and the Buffalo Board of Education–The Billion Dollar Budget District

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WPCNR ALBANY ROUNDS. A Memorandum on the state of the Buffalo Public Schools and alleged lack of intervention from the State Education Department from former Candidate for Governor of New York State, Carl Paladino (who lost to Andrew Cuomo in the race for Governor in 2010. December 29, 2013:

This year the White Plains City School District may be flirting with bursting the $200 Million barrier in the 2014-15 school budget. The following memo was written by Carl Paladino documenting what he describes as irresponsible management of his own Buffalo Public Schools. The problems he discusses are strikingly similar to the problems White Plains faces on a more narrow scale.

It is a cautionary tale as White Plains is facing more budget shortfalls, a 2/3 minority student body and a lowered tax levy cap. Here is the memo written by Mr. Paladino:

Below is a memo that I sent to the Buffalo Board of Education (BOE) and Superintendent last week outlining the deplorable condition of the finances and some of the bad decision making of the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) which requires your immediate attention. 
The BPS is being mismanaged by a Superintendent and majority of the Board of Education who illustrate no sense of fiscal responsibility.  They do not have the experience or education necessary to administer a $1 billion annual budget. Their cavalier attitude resulted many bad and irresponsibly careless decisions.

The attached original district reorganization plan, proposed by outside objective consultants, called for a $5.7 million cost savings by way of a reduction of 90 jobs in the bloated administrative bureaucracy. 

The plan was then   manipulated into an estimated $3 million additional cost by the Superintendent at the behest of sisterhood BOE members. Cloaked in secrecy, without any transparency, bad decisions by the sisterhood and their Superintendent illustrate that they have defied the Peter Principle and risen to elected or appointed office well above their level of competency.
Your respective offices are charged with the responsibility to protect the taxpayers of Buffalo from waste and mismanagement of funds.  State law is clear in this matter.  It is improper for the BPS to use their unrestricted reserves as they are now doing.  They are required to keep 4% of the budget in unrestricted  reserve. The unrestricted reserve will be raided for in excess of $40 million this fiscal year and $48 million is now estimated for next year, which will completely deplete the reserve. 
There also appears to be a question about the legal use of grant funds that requires an in depth audit.  The Superintendent seems to always find grant money as an excuse for her out of control hiring and reassignment of administrative and teaching staff.
The next scheduled meeting of the Control Board is March 12, 2014, creating a time problem with the development of the BPS budget for the 2014-15 school year.  I request that the Control Board immediately call a special meeting and resolve to go hard as to its supervision of the BPS.  I also request that the Comptroller exercise his authority to audit the use of reserves and the use of grant monies.
I appeared at the December meeting of the BFSA and was surprised at the  line of  questions presented by George Arthur and Frank Messiah to Judy Elliott, the distinguished educator assigned to the BPS by the State Education Commissioner. 

It was also obvious that the Superintendent sat with a smile on her face while the intimidation went on. She offered no defense for the lady who has repeatedly defended the Superintendent’s incompetence and carried her water for months. Obviously neither interrogator had read any of Ms. Elliott’s reports or investigated the massive contribution she has made to everything good that has occurred in the BPS over the past year including the huge amount of grant money received from the State which would not have happened without her involvement. 

The BOE majority obviously set up Arthur and Messiah to marginalize the value of Ms. Elliott.  They regularly blurt out their disdain for the lady at BOE meetings. Arthur and Messiah have also spent their careers living the hypocrisy of African American leadership enjoying the fruits of power while keeping the urban poor captive in the cycle of poverty.
It is easier to repair strong children than to fix broken men.
Please feel free to share this missive with your friends and family members.
To:     Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent and BOE
From: Carl Paladino
CC:    Everybody
Date:  December 23, 2013
Re:     Hypocrisy
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, 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 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.

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