School board members clash in chaotic session

Nov 6, 2014

Even by the often-chaotic standards of Buffalo school board meetings, last night's was unusually hectic.

The Buffalo School Board met Wednesday at Waterfront School.
Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news

The session featured two people being escorted out by security; Carl Paladino was served with papers alleging ethics violations; and board members fought over a planned audit of the $1.4 billion school reconstruction program.

Security is a little looser when the board meets outside of the board room in City Hall. This time a man ran through the meeting throwing green papers intended to represent dollars and a woman wouldn't stop talking about board members who favor charter schools. Both were taken away.

Board officials say the man is a West Seneca teacher.

Then another speaker distributed papers filed in Albany saying Paladino is violating ethics rules by doing business with charter schools.

Later in the meeting, Board Member Barbara Seals Nevergold objected to potentially spending $200,000 on a reconstruction audit, drawing a terse response from Paladino.                

"For Doctor Nevergold to say at this point that she feels that that money might not be appropriate to audit, you are conflicted, you are seriously conflicted because you are trying to protect what you didn't do during those years that you served on the board," Paladino said.

From the beginning of the Joint Schools Construction Board, school board members have served on that panel. When Paladino was elected, then-board President Seals Nevergold refused to put him on the board.

An audit is a long way away because program manager LP Ciminelli hasn't delivered paperwork about the project that Paladino wants to see to use in preparing for an audit.

The board did settle one long-running fight over providing bus service to the Charter School for Applied Technologies. Board Member Larry Quinn says the city students will now be delivered to the city line.

"It was a great settlement. I mean CSAT is one of our highest-performing charter schools. It serves 80-some percent of the kids that are economically disadvantaged," Quinn said.

"This helps them. It helps us. We had a...approximately $7 million liability. This is off our books now and we can move forward."

In 2009, the school system stopped providing bus service to Applied Technologies because its buildings were in the Town of Tonawanda. The school won a lawsuit, The district was ordered to pay nearly $7 million and now won't have to.