Buffalo Public Schools elections (2014)
Method of election
What was at stake?
Buffalo Public Schools
Erie County, New York ballot measures
Local ballot measures, New York
Three seats on the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education were up for general election on May 6, 2014. Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold retained her seat, but fellow incumbent John Licata did not win a seat in the general election. Board member Florence Johnson, who had served on the board since 1992, did not file for re-election. Newcomers Larry Quinn and Patricia B. Pierce defeated 10 other challengers to win Licata and Johnson's seats on the board.
Controversial Superintendent Pamela Brown survived a narrow 5-4 board vote in September 2013 to keep her position, but the change in the composition of the board could result in her dismissal. Florence Johnson and Barbara Seals Nevergold had voted to keep Brown, but John Licata voted to remove her. Both Larry Quinn and Patricia B. Pierce were endorsed by Park Subdistrict board member Carl P. Paladino, who leads the board faction opposed to Nevergold and Superintendent Brown. This election shifted the 5-4 governing majority from Nevergold to Paladino's control.
Beyond winning re-election, Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold also confronted legal challenges regarding the legitimacy of her seat on the board from Paladino. He filed two unsuccessful petitions with the New York State Education Department and Commissioner of Education John King arguing that Nevergold's failure to run for re-election in the May 2013 election violated board policies and state law.
Due to the hostility within the Buffalo Board of Education, multiple controversies involving Superintendent Brown's administration and financial and academic performance issues within the district, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown suggested in February 2014 that he may take control of the school district. However, Mayor Brown had not initiated any formal requests to the New York State Legislature for control of Buffalo Public Schools prior to the school board election and indicated that he would only do so if the plan garnered significant community support.
About the district
- See also: Buffalo Public Schools, New York
Buffalo underperformed in comparison to the rest of New York in terms of higher education achievement in 2012. The United States Census Bureau found that 23.4 percent of Buffalo residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 32.8 percent for New York as a whole. The median household income in Buffalo was $30,502 compared to $57,683 for the state of New York. The poverty rate in Buffalo was 30.1 percent compared to 14.9 percent for the entire state.
Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages.
Method of board member selection
The Buffalo Board of Education consists of nine members. Three members are elected to five-year terms at-large by the district as a whole while the other six members are elected to three-year terms by distinct geographic districts. There was no primary election and the general election was held on May 6, 2014. Three seats were up for election in 2014 and six seats will be up for election in 2016.
The filing deadline for school board candidates to get on the ballot in the general election was April 8, 2014 and the deadline to file a certificate of acceptance or declination was April 11, 2014. Candidates had to file nominating petitions with at least 1,000 legitimate signatures to get on the ballot.
This election attracted an unusually large number of candidates for the Buffalo Board of Education. A total of 15 candidates applied for the three at-large positions in 2005 and 2009, whereas 15 candidates filed to run in 2014 alone. After Bryon J. McIntyre and Daniel Rockwitz Reynolds were removed from the ballot due to not meeting the petition signature requirements, 13 candidates ran in 2014.
|Buffalo Public Schools, At-Large General Election, 5-year term, 2014|
|Nonpartisan||Patricia B. Pierce||14.7%||8,061|
|Nonpartisan||Barbara Seals Nevergold Incumbent||13.6%||7,449|
|Nonpartisan||John Licata Incumbent||9%||4,930|
|Nonpartisan||Samuel P. Davis||7.9%||4,334|
|Nonpartisan||Ralph R. Hernandez||5%||2,733|
|Source: Erie County, NY - Board of Elections, "Election Results Archive," accessed June 11, 2014|
The following is a list of endorsements made in the Buffalo school board elections. Candidates who did not receive endorsements were not included in this table. Those candidates were Adrian Harris, Wendy Mistretta, Sergio Rodriguez, Stephon Wright and Stephen Buccilli.
|Endorsement||Barbara Seals Nevergold||John Licata||Larry Quinn||Bernie Tolbert||Patricia B. Pierce||Samuel P. Davis||Gizelle Stokes||Ralph R. Hernandez|
|The Buffalo News|
|Local political organizations|
|Buffalo Teachers Federation|
|National political organizations|
|Local business organizations|
|Buffalo Niagara Partnership|
|Current board members|
|Sharon Belton Cottman|
|Mary Ruth Kapsiak|
|Carl P. Paladino|
|Former board members|
Candidates received a total of $38,849.99 and spent a total of $2,012.01. School board candidates in New York are not required to report their campaign contributions or expenditures if they do not exceed $500.00. Larry Quinn received the most in contributions with a total of $34,000.00, including a contribution of $3,000.00 and an additional $384.57 in-kind donation of data files from StudentsFirst, which is a national education reform advocacy organization. StudentsFirst's policy agenda includes support for teacher merit pay, eliminating tenure for teachers and promoting school choice.
|Candidate||Contributions||Expenditures||Cash on hand|
|Barbara Seals Nevergold||$3,045.00||$651.30||$2,393.70|
|Patricia B. Pierce||$600.00||$0.00||$600.00|
|Ralph R. Hernandez||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Samuel P. Davis||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
Information about earlier elections can be found by clicking [show] at the right.
What was at stake?
The three at-large seats on the school board were up for election on May 6, 2014. Issues in the race included Superintendent Pamela Brown's future with the district and hostility between board member Carl P. Paladino and Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold. Strife within the school district largely revolved around the possibility of a mayoral takeover, the departure and subsequent rehiring of controversial consultant Mary Guinn and the lack of the necessary legal credentials for two top officials in the district administration.
Issues in the election
Superintendent Pamela Brown
Significant divisions arose within the Buffalo Board of Education since the election of former gubernatorial candidate and local businessman Carl P. Paladino in 2013. In that race, Paladino campaigned for the removal of incumbent board members and the dismissal of the district's top administrators, including Superintendent Pamela Brown. Since joining the board, Paladino has continued to call for Superintendent Brown's resignation or firing, stating that she is "obviously incapable." In September 2013, the board ruled in a 5-4 decision to keep the superintendent in place. Since Brown supporter and Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold was up for re-election, NPR journalist Mike Desmond suggested that, "[...] the approaching School Board elections will likely determine her future as Buffalo Schools Superintendent." Superintendent Brown announced her intention to resign after her opponents on the board won the governing majority following the election of Larry Quinn and Patricia B. Pierce.
The following table lists the stated position of each school board candidate on keeping Superintendent Brown:
|Positions on Superintendent Brown|
|Barbara Seals Nevergold||Retain|
|Patricia B. Pierce||Terminate|
|Ralph R. Hernandez||N/A|
|Samuel P. Davis||Retain|
On October 23, 2013, board member Carl P. Paladino filed an unsuccessful motion to dismiss Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold from her leadership position. He later filed an appeal with the New York State Education Department and Commissioner of Education John King, claiming that she is unfit to meet the responsibilities of the position and stating that she had allowed board meeting participants to attack him verbally. Paladino then filed a second petition with Commissioner King, which argued that Nevergold's position on the board was illegitimate due to her not running for the seat in the May 2013 election after being appointed to the board. Board member John Licata made a successful resolution to hire legal counsel for Nevergold's defense. Local resident Joan Simmons filed a petition with the state agency requesting Paladino's removal from the board on the basis that he is disruptive and prevents the board from carrying out its duties.
On April 4, 2014, Commissioner King rejected both of Paladino's petitions "on procedural grounds" and due to a lack of evidence. However, Commissioner King's ruling on Paladino's second petition left open the possibility that Nevergold violated state law by not running for re-election in the May 2013 election. After hearing the decision, Paladino announced that he would pursue legal action against Nevergold in the New York State Supreme Court. On May 19, 2014, Erie County Supreme Court Judge Tracey A. Bannister rejected Paladino's argument on the grounds that Nevergold was only required by law to run in the first election following her appointment for the type of seat she held, an at-large seat. The 2014 election was the first election for at-large seats following her appointment. Judge Bannister also noted that the statute of limitations for the case had passed and that Paladino did not have the legal right to re-litigate a decision already made by Commissioner King.
Buffalo school board members and candidates weighed in with a range of different opinions on the Common Core education reforms implemented in the school district. In October 2013, board member James Sampson wrote an opinion piece for The Buffalo News that defended the reforms and praised both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner of Education John King for resisting public pressure to delay or dismantle Common Core standards. Parents in Buffalo and neighboring school districts voiced concerns about both Common Core and policies that require students who opt-out from the program's standardized testing to sit and wait silently during the testing period with no other activities available to them.
Superintendent Pamela Brown provided testimony to the New York State Senate Education Committee on October 16, 2013, to discuss academic performance in Buffalo Public Schools. During this testimony, she called for full implementation of Common Core but requested additional guidance and data resources from the New York State Education Department to ensure effective implementation. In a "listening tour" discussion held at the Buffalo Public Library on March 31, 2014, Superintendent Brown insisted that the district would continue to implement the Common Core standards. She added that the district would not allow students to officially opt-out from testing, but acknowledged that students could still refuse to fill out the standardized tests provided to them.
The following table lists the stated position of each school board candidate on Common Core and the district's implementation of it:
|Positions on Common Core|
|Candidate||Position on Common Core||Position on implementation|
|Barbara Seals Nevergold||Oppose||Inadequate|
|Patricia B. Pierce||Support||Inadequate|
|Ralph R. Hernandez||N/A||N/A|
|Samuel P. Davis||Oppose||Inadequate|
Issues in the district
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown announced in February 2014 that he is considering taking control of Buffalo Public Schools. Brown refrained from taking a position on the issue of mayoral control during his 2013 bid for re-election, but suggested that the district's academic and financial struggles have made it clear that, "[...] the model that exists isn’t working, and people are looking for options and people are looking for hope." Until the 1970s, the Buffalo Board of Education was separated from the school district and appointed by the mayor. In later remarks, Mayor Brown emphasized that he would only pursue mayoral control of the district if the plan received significant community support. Replacing the elected board with an appointed board would require a change in state law by the New York State Legislature, which Mayor Brown has not formally requested.
In March 2013, consultant Mary Guinn and her firm, Cross and Joftus, were hired to provide leadership coaching to top district officials and to assist with the implementation of a central office reorganization plan. The initial three-month contract, which was paid with private grant money, also appointed Guinn to the temporary position of interim deputy superintendent. However, the district did not hire a permanent deputy superintendent and instead agreed to a one-year contract with Cross and Joftus at the additional cost of $432,000. Board members questioned the appropriateness of Guinn's contract and involvement with payroll, internal communications and leadership meetings. Guinn's firm cancelled the consulting contract on October 8, 2013 following board efforts to remove her from the position.
During the board's closed session meeting on February 26, 2014, Superintendent Brown recommended that the board hire Guinn to fill the deputy superintendent position. The board voted 5-3 to hire Guinn for a 90-day period, with board member Jason M. McCarthy absent from the meeting. An article from The Buffalo News journalist Tiffany Lankes indicated that Superintendent Brown may have intended since Guinn's October 2013 departure to bring her back to fill the position, despite Brown denying such rumors at the time. Guinn applied with the New York State Education Department for the credentials necessary to fill the position on October 16, 2013, which she received on February 14, 2014. An official with HealthNow, which managed the district's deputy superintendent candidate search, stated that the organization felt "a level of frustration" with the district's involvement in the process and concluded its search after, "[...] it became apparent that the way we had approached the search was not needed."
Following Guinn's appointment, several board members voiced their displeasure with the decision. McCarthy stated that he would have voted against her appointment if he were present at the meeting. He added that he felt Superintendent Brown's unexpected request and the board vote were purposefully conducted in his absence in order to ensure Guinn's appointment. During interviews with The Buffalo News, board members James Sampson and Carl P. Paladino denounced the vote as "disrespectful" and "sinful," respectively.
On March 18, 2014, two Buffalo district administrators hired by Superintendent Brown were revealed to lack the necessary legal credentials to serve in their positions. Curriculum, assessment and instruction chief Yamilette Williams and school leadership chief Faith Morrison Alexander were both hired during the summer of 2013 with only conditional certificates to serve as school principals, not district administrators. District human resources administrator Darren J. Brown acknowledged that his office had failed to ensure that the two officials had obtained their proper certifications and stated that the school district faced legal liability issues as a result.
Superintendent Brown announced on March 20, 2014 that she had put both officials on unpaid leave, but board members Carl P. Paladino and John Licata insisted that neither Williams nor Alexander were actually still employed by the district due to the violation of their contracts. Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold placed the blame for the oversight on the district's human resources department and indicated that she was misled regarding their certifications. On March 25, 2014, Paladino announced that he had located additional district officials who lacked the necessary credentials for their positions at the time of their hiring, including Bennett High School Principal Terry Ross and Education Partnership Organization Superintendent Tamara Branch.
Superintendent Brown attempted to retain Yamilette Williams and Faith Morrison Alexander as interns at an annual salary of $130,000 each, but the school board rejected her proposal and voted unanimously to fire both officials on April 2, 2014. Following the vote, Brown denied knowing that either administrator had lacked the proper credentials for their position, arguing, "At the time they were hired, it was my understanding that whatever they needed to have in order to take those positions, that they had it. It did not come to my attention that they did not have the proper certification until just recently."
The following dates were key deadlines for the Buffalo Public Schools election in 2014:
|February 25, 2014||First day to sign nominating petitions|
|April 1, 2014||First day to file nominating petitions|
|April 7, 2014||Last day to file first campaign finance report|
|April 8, 2014||Last day to file nominating petitions|
|April 11, 2014||Last day to file certificates of acceptance or declination|
|May 1, 2014||Last day to file second campaign finance report|
|May 6, 2014||Election day|
|May 27, 2014||Last day to file final campaign finance report|
Additional elections on the ballot
This election did not share the ballot with other elections.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Buffalo + Public + Schools + New + York"
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- New York
- Buffalo Public Schools, New York
- New York school board elections, 2014
- List of school board elections in 2014
- School board elections, 2014
- Erie County, New York ballot measures
- Local ballot measures, New York
- 90 candidates seek 38 seats in first round of May school board elections
- Incumbents falter in early May elections, governing majority shifts in Buffalo
- Erie County, NY - Board of Elections, "Buffalo School Board," accessed March 26, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "School Board candidates begin seeking petition signatures," February 25, 2014
- Buffalo Public Schools, "Files and Documents," accessed April 16, 2014
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Superintendent Brown offers job assessment," March 6, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "State denies Paladino’s bid to unseat board president," April 5, 2014
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Mayor discusses possible control of Buffalo School District," February 27, 2014
- United States Census Bureau, "Erie County, New York," accessed March 26, 2014
- National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed April 22, 2014
- United States Census Bureau, "Buffalo (city), New York," accessed March 26, 2014
- New York State Board of Elections, "NYS Voter Enrollment by County, Party Affiliation and Status - Voters Registered as of November 01, 2013," accessed March 26, 2014
- United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "The News' full coverage of the Buffalo School Board elections," April 16, 2013
- Erie County, NY - Board of Elections, "Election Results Archive," accessed April 16, 2014
- Erie County, NY - Board of Elections, "2014 City of Buffalo School Board Petition Filings," accessed April 16, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Two knocked off Buffalo School Board ballot," April 23, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Meet the candidates," accessed April 29, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "At a watershed moment in education, The News endorses three candidates for School Board," April 27, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "School Board candidates turn focus to getting out the vote," May 3, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Used to tough decisions, Tolbert takes his time on Brown," April 29, 2014
- Twitter, "Sandra Tan," May 2, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "School board financial disclosures," April 12, 2014
- StudentsFirst, "StudentsFirst Policy Agenda: Summary," accessed April 18, 2014
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Paladino to launch major push to remove school board incumbents," January 24, 2013
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Paladino wins, vows to shake up school district," May 8, 2013
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Seeking changes, Paladino takes school board seat," July 10, 2013
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Board votes to keep Superintendent Brown," September 26, 2013
- The Buffalo News, "Incoming School Board majority wants search for interim superintendent to begin ‘immediately’," June 3, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Used to making tough decisions, board candidate Tolbert reluctantly loses confidence in Buffalo school chief," May 1, 2014
- WKBW - ABC 7, "Buffalo Board of Education Member Wants President Nevergold Out," November 9, 2013
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Buffalo District hires lawyer for school board president," November 21, 2013
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Paladino faces action seeking his removal from school board," January 16, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Commissioner King's ruling on Paladino's petition to oust Nevergold," April 5, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "The written ruling dismissing Paladino's bid to unseat Nevergold," May 20, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Another Voice: Education commissioner has it right on Common Core standards," October 29, 2013
- The Buffalo News, "Why should kids just ‘sit and stare’? as parents, school officials debate Common Core testing," March 18, 2014
- New York State Senate, "Testimony, Dr. Pamela C. Brown, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent," October 16, 2013
- Time Warner Cable News, "Superintendent says Common Core curriculum not going anywhere," March 31, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Mayor considers taking control of Buffalo school district," February 26, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Fate of consultant in Buffalo School Board’s hands as her compensation, authority are questioned," September 24, 2013
- The Buffalo News, "Seed sown last fall for Guinn to be rehired by school district, state records show," March 6, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Guinn’s hiring expected to create more divisiveness on School Board," February 27, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Board members call Guinn's appointment "deceptive," "disrespectful" and "sinful"," February 28, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Two top Buffalo school district officials lack state certifications," March 19, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Uncertified Buffalo school administrators no longer employed by district," March 22, 2014
- WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Paladino uncovers more school district employees without proper credentials," March 25, 2014
- The Buffalo News, "Buffalo School Board votes overwhelmingly to fire 2 top administrators," April 3, 2014
|2014 Buffalo Public Schools Elections|
|Buffalo, New York|
|Election date:||May 6, 2014|
|Candidates:||At-large: • Incumbent, Barbara Seals Nevergold • Incumbent, John Licata • Adrian Harris • Wendy Mistretta • Larry Quinn • Sergio Rodriguez • Bernie Tolbert • Stephon Wright • Stephen Buccilli • Patricia B. Pierce • Ralph R. Hernandez • Samuel P. Davis • Gizelle Stokes|
|Important information:||What was at stake? • Key deadlines • Additional elections on the ballot|