Different Players, Same Process……The New Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent.
With the void in leadership the City of Buffalo School Board will look to fill that void for the seventh time in the past eighteen years. To the names of Dr. James Harris, Mrs. Marian V. Canedo, Mrs. Yvonne Hargrave,Dr. James A. Williams,Ms. Amber M. Dixon and Dr. Pamela Brown Buffalo Public School superintendents of the past two decades will soon be added with another. With all the discussion in public and between Buffalo school board members on how to proceed in this manner has led me to speculate that the same old process will be used to fill the vacant superintendent position. The process was used in 1996, 2005 and in 2012 to select a superintendent that, with each selection became progressively worse. Each selection failed in producing an individual that could inspire, support and affirm all public school stakeholders, which a person must possess to lead an urban public school district.
The past twenty years the City of Buffalo School Board has failed to fill the superintendent’s position with an individual that is best suited to lead an urban public school district. Instead of choosing someone that had the abilities to move the district forward, you jumped at the first pump fake and hoped for the best. I would say that you could drop the names of any future interim superintendents; along with the past three, Mrs. Canedo, Mrs. Harvgrave and Dixon due to the nature of their appointments. I sure all would agree the term of Mrs.Canedo’s case a bit longer, but interim refers to just keeping the ball moving, not the introduction of wide sweeping changes. The other three Dr. Harris, Dr. Williams and Dr. Brown were brought here with the purpose of overseeing major academic improvement within the Buffalo Public School system, but provided average results at best. All chosen because of a failed belief in only basing your choice on your own limited and biased perspective on what were the best needs of all public school students. The appointment of Dr. James Harris I am certain was based on race when he was selected in 1996. I came across this information by being in the right place at the right time, an eye opening experience to be sure and gave me a broader perspective on how this city works or shouldn’t work.
The advancement of public urban education has long been a dilemma that has sparked passionate debate in this city. Federal legislation, countless social and educational initiatives combined with the promise of academic improvement have failed to meet their lofty expectations. The main reason for not reaching their expectations is, not understand the multiple variables that encompass public education. You have student and parent social, mental, health issues coupled with continuous staff turnover and yearly state underfunding that causes chronic instability. You have political and social elite that vying for the opportunities and influence public school association brings. Being able to bring all these variables together and integrate them in an effective manner cannot be done through directives, but through leadership that will affirm, support and inspire all within the public education system, while integrating proven educational practices.
The dilemma for the City of Buffalo Public Schools or any urban school district is how to obtain strong inspiring leaders and also how to cultivate individuals within your midst to assume future leadership positions. This cannot occur when you acquire a school superintendent based of the perceptions of a few and not the realities of the many. Each time a superintendent was chosen the formula was biased and therefore subject to a faulty result and this cannot be disputed. The formula was not based on a logical process that comes to a logical conclusion, it’s non-transparent, political and often times motivated along the socio economic perspective. The question is will the next superintendent for the Buffalo Public schools fit the need of an urban school district or someone’s perceived notion based on political, economic affiliation or social ideology. If I had to predict an outcome based on the individuals controlling the selection process, I would say more of the later is forthcoming and therefore more of the same academic progress.