Teacher delegation asks School Board for principal removal

Dec 21, 2017

A major uproar in a Buffalo school spilled in front of the public Wednesday night, when a delegation of teachers appeared before the School Board to protest the management of their principal.

It is a rare event for a teacher to publicly protest a principal. Wednesday night, it was three teachers from School 18 who attacked Principal Aatka Patel during the School Board's public comment period. Their concern became more obvious when a number of people in red shirts stood to back up the speakers.

They attacked the principal's treatment of teachers and students to the point that 25 teachers have notified the Buffalo Teachers Federation they want out if nothing is done.

"BTF conducted an anonymous client survey last month at School 18 because our school is in a state of distress, due to the actions and lack of leadership by the current administration," said teacher Nicole Nye. "This same survey was also conducted by our principal's previous school, West Hertel, where she was an assistant principal. The result of both surveys proved her inadequacy as a leader of any school community, as she is abusive to staff and creates a hostile environment for students."

Buffalo School Board members listen to complaints during the public comment portion of Wednesday's meeting.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Principals and teacher do butt heads. What is different here was Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash saying he sent a top-level team of administrators into the building to find out what is going on in the West Side school.

"If the sole outcome for you is the removal of this principal, then that is something that at this time, until we try this action plan, until we try to get better, each of us, all of us are responsible for improving the organization," Cash said. "So we all have accountability."

Cash asked the teachers for a few weeks forbearance, while his people study the situation and see what can be done.

It is very unusual for Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold to allow someone to be attacked by name during the public comment period. This principal's name was used repeatedly until Seals Nevergold told a speaker to stop.

Board Member Jennifer Mecozzi says she has been hearing "insane-sounding accusations."

"I put relationships on the line that I had with this school's teachers, the cafeteria, the clinic," Mecozzi said. "This isn't just teachers. This isn't a Phil Rumore-district-BTF thing. Teachers are on the Building Committee that came here, but I gave them the thing I'm telling all of you. It goes deeper than the principal and teachers trying to take out new principals and all this mess that I'm hearing. It's deeper than that."

Cash said the principal was at the meeting, but did not speak.