Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash says he is looking forward to the new school board, as he and his staff prepare to bring the "newbies" up to speed on the position.
Voters on Tuesday put four new people on the nine-member School Board. Kathy Evans-Brown, a project director with the Buffalo Urban League, was the winner in the East District against Patricia Elliott. Also winners were three at-large candidates: Terrance Heard, a former teacher and assistant team leader for General Motors; Ann Rivera, a department chair at Villa Maria College; and Larry Scott, a school psychologist in Ken-Ton Schools and a co-founder of the Buffalo Parent Teachers Organization.
They take office July 1 and will quickly have to deal with a new budget and the superintendent's evaluation as he goes into his final contract year.
The school budget is well over $1 billion and there are around 36,000 regular public and charter public school students and myriad issues. The new board also has to decide if it wants to bargain a new pact with the superintendent and whether he wants to stay on.
Cash said a key part of the prepared training program is explaining the powers of the board.
"It's all just good board governance. That's what it's all about at the end of the day," Cash said. "Knowing the difference between governance and management. Knowing the difference on your three main responsibilities: fiduciary, policy and hire and fire the superintendent. That's your basic control. Everything else, you can leave the management, day to day, to the superintendent and his staff."
Cash said it can take years to become an effective board member because the job is so complex and has so many moving parts. Besides in-house training, the superintendent said he is considering out-of-town training by a consulting firm.
"It's going to be a learning curve. It's a three-to-five year learning curve to be really, really sharp and astute and feel like you're well prepared at a meeting," he said. "So you've got to do a lot of studying, lot of outside of the meeting work that they're going to have to do that may take them by surprise."
Cash said Chief of Staff Darren Brown-Hall has been putting together briefing documents and glossaries of the various terms thrown around in board meetings as educational shorthand. The superintendent also likes to meet new members one-on-one, often by having coffee with them, and likes to be texted if they want to talk or meet with him.
"We sit down. 'What do your concerns? What do you want success to look like?' And then,I share our goals, our work, our strategy," Cash said, "and then we come to a meeting of the minds and say, 'Okay, let's work on those two or three interests that you have and let's work on those that you have.' We try to keep them manageable and yet actionable."