Carl Paladino says his removal from the Buffalo School Board by New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was wrong and he intends to fight it. He tells WBFO his highly-anticipated challenge will formally begin next week.
Last month, Elia decided that Paladino inappropriately disclosed executive session information about teacher contract negotiations to the publication Artvoice. He was removed from his school board seat, effective immediately upon her ruling. That seat was filled last week by new Park District representative Catherine Flanagan-Priore.
Paladino, meanwhile, plans to appeal under New York State's Article 78, a proceeding which challenges the actions of administrative agencies and other government bodies.
"Between now and what I do with our success with an Article 78, I will keep doing what I've always been doing," he said. "I'll keep advocating for education and I'll criticize where they have to be criticized and I'll support where they should be supported."
Paladino appeared Thursday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the Western New York Maritime Charter School's new middle school building on Buffum Street. The real estate development company he founded, Ellicott Development, led the renovation of the former Buffalo Public School 70 building. His company has worked before with charter and private schools and he hinted more projects will come in the future.
He noted the high graduation rates among charter schools and the opportunities they provide to economically disadvantaged students.
"Unfortunately, they have home experiences which are not that good, parents that are not tuned into what they should be doing as parents to help that child along," Paladino stated. "And we have quite a bit of dysfunction in our traditional public school system. These charters are winners."
Paladino's disclosure about contract talks was not the first time he got in trouble for remarks made to Artvoice. Many wanted him removed from the Buffalo School Board soon after his controversial remarks, published in December. The remarks, which were part of a series of "wish lists" submitted by local personalities, included the wish that Barack Obama "die of mad cow disease" and for Michelle Obama to "return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie the gorilla."
He apologized for those remarks, also in Artvoice, stating "what is horrible is explaining to my 17 year old daughter how her hero could be so stupid."
Paladino supporters and allies believe his removal from the school board was really a way to punish him for the December incident and not for the charge of publicly disclosing privileged information.
WBFO asked him if, in the event his appeal is unsuccessful, he would be satisfied with his work with charter schools as his educational legacy.
"I'm comfortable with what I've done," Paladino replied. "If I've moved that boulder five inches, I'm a happy guy. There's so much more than can be done and should be done, because it's not fair to the citizens of this community to have a board that is fully owned, lock, stock and barrel, by the (teacher) union that is its chief adversary."