For the first time since Carl Paladino’s remarks against the Obamas in an Artvoice wish list article ignited widespread controversy, the public got the chance to have their comments heard on record during a meeting of the Buffalo School Board. Plenty took the opportunity, and – for the first time – so did school Superintendent Kriner Cash.
The public comment period of Tuesday night’s Buffalo School Board meeting was fraught with speakers denouncing board member Carl Paladino and what many referred to as a history of inappropriate behavior.
But in an unprecedented move during the traditional Superintendent’s Response period, schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash yielded the floor to Paladino so that the embattled board member could reply to the public.
Paladino began his remarks by calling it “unfortunate” that the discourse surrounding his remarks had reached its current level.
“I submit to you that I had a bad choice of words and the vehicle by which they were delivered was unfortunate,” said Paladino. “I’ve apologized to those that I’ve hurt. I see my mission on this board as a mission to do something really positive for the 33,000 kids in the district.”
Paladino continued his response, drifting from the subject of the public’s comments to national politics, board business, and his views on why he and other board members don’t get along. After multiple interruptions, he was given one final chance to reply to the public, and offered a simple summary.
“To the people that have spoken here tonight, I understand you, and I understand the limited knowledge that you have about the real workings. And I forgive you.”
Cash explained that he was hopeful Paladino would have taken the opportunity to address the speakers at the meeting, as well as the local and global community that responded to his original comments in Artvoice, with his own feelings and thoughts on how he would hold himself accountable.
“I won’t be the final judge. I won’t even be a judge,” said Cash. “But what I can say is that it is extraordinarily important for all of us – particularly in a public office, in public education – to be accountable for everything we do. Everything.”
Cash said consequences must happen for everyone’s actions and that it will always be unacceptable to say anything hatred-oriented, or with racist or violent overtones. He called the situation with Paladino a test, and alluded that it would not be the last seen on the national stage. He said at least Buffalo can be proud of how it has responded.
Earlier in the meeting, the school board voted six to three in favor of a new resolution aimed at removing Paladino from his seat. This latest resolution targets Paladino for violating the confidentiality of the board’s executive sessions.
Board member Larry Quinn claimed he was purposefully excluded from a meeting to create the resolution by Board President Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold. Quinn said he intends to hire a lawyer to file a complaint against Nevergold for organizing a secret meeting that should have been made public.
In what appeared to be an attempt at closing the discussion over Paladino’s behavior, Cash pointed out that Paladino’s actions and the turmoil that ensued were not something anyone in the district predicted or has the power to control.
“But it’s happened,” said Cash. “What we can control is what we do from here forward. The board has taken their actions. Let that take its course. We now must get to work on what’s best for these children each and every day. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Cash called on board members, district staff, parents and children to get back to focusing on education as well.