School Board seeks approval for mandatory kindergarten

Apr 10, 2014

School Board Member Carl Paladino exchanged insults with fellow Board Member Sharon Belton Cottman at Wednesday night's meeting.
Credit WBFO File Photo

There was some name-calling and a call for a basic change in city schools Wednesday night, as the Buffalo Board of Education held a meeting at the Makowski School.

The school board continues to struggle with its decisions to close and merge an array of city schools in hard fiscal times. Parents are fighting closing the former Pinnacle Charter and now School 115 and merging it with academically struggling Harvey Austin School.

The school district is also trying to start some new schools in the quest to raise student achievement. School board Member John Licata said that's why he wants the state to mandate kindergarten in the district, as it is in Syracuse and New York City.
"If kindergarten becomes mandatory, then we can have our attendance teachers working to promote and enforce attendance in kindergarten," Licata said.

"We have students coming in six years old in first grade and those students aren't reading and they don't have the social skills and the other skills that are gained, the emotional intelligence skills, all those skills that are gathered in kindergarten."

Licata said with the promise of the Say Yes program for college attendance there should also be effort at the other end of the academic chain to get kids started well. The board voted unanimously for the request to Albany.

Earlier in the meeting, name-calling erupted between board members Carl Paladino and Sharon Belton Cottman, with each calling the other a bully over a meeting in Bennett High School with teachers who claimed the school is in disarray under a new principal.

"She had no business being at that meeting but she was there. And, she was there for one purpose which was very obvious, with the chief of school leadership and they conducted themselves just as I expected they would. Although, they were more reserved because I was sitting in the room as a witness," Paladino said.

"She's (Belton Cottman) the muscle and has been the muscle on the board for a little while and so she thinks that that's her job. It's to go around and muscle people.

Belton Cottman countered, saying Paladino tries to intimidate the women on the board and Superintendent Pamela Brown.

"I have been bullied. The superintendent has been bullied. Staff has been bullied. We have spent significant money in legal fees in regard to the bullying," Cottman Belton.

"The bullying has to stop. It is not productive. It is not sending out a positive message to the children."