A brief presentation from Carl Paladino (in a nutshell: the superintendent is incompetent; boarding schools are the way to go) at Wednesday's Board of Ed committee meeting ended -- predictably enough -- in a testy exchange between him and board member Florence Johnson.
But it was the testy exchange after Paladino left, between two other people in the room, that startled many who were there.
Board member Chris Jacobs picked up on something Paladino mentioned -- an increase in non-union administrators -- and pressed Superintendent James Williams on it. Jacobs wanted to know whether there had, in fact, been such an increase in recent years.
Jacobs: "Well, I'm asking this question."
Williams: "Then, Chris, look at the budget book and you all can do what you all want to do. The man is stupid. He's ignorant. And you all cater to that stupid stuff. I'm fed up with it. I'm through with him. I'm not going there."
Jacobs: "Are you saying you're not answering my question?"
Williams: "Look in the budget book. You'll see everything in there, Chris... It's not fair to even ask me that. We have less administrators than we had when I came here. But we have more exempt employees."
Jacobs: "Let me just say something. I don’t agree with a lot that Mr. Paladino said. I have disagreed with him on many items. I have personally met with him to disagree, to tell him his focus needs to be on Albany. But I’m a board member, and when there’s a part of a presentation interests me, I have every right. And you have an obligation -- "
Williams: "You have a right to do anything whatever you want to do."
Williams: "I don’t have an obligation to -- "
Jacobs: "You work for us."
Williams: "I am sick of your craziness, Chris."
Jacobs: "My craziness?"
Williams: "Yes, your craziness."
It was about at that point that Jacobs gathered up his stuff and left.
Aside from the general lack of respect and lack of civility between the two men, something else was significant about the exchange.
Jacobs had, for years, been a staunch supporter of Williams. Remember the Jayvonna Kincannon situation at McKinley High School a few years ago? Jacobs stood by Williams' side every step of the way, defending the superintendent.
But in recent months, Jacobs has been questioning Williams more and more. Jacobs was, for instance, one of the lead opponents on the board to Williams' plan to move da Vinci High School off the D'Youville College campus.
While Jacobs' posture on the board has gradually been shifting over the past several months, Wednesday's blow-up was the most public, most tangible evidence of his drift away from the superintendent.
And the incident Wednesday further fueled speculation that Jacobs is eyeing a run for political office and playing to the preferences of some of the most powerful forces Buffalo's business community, who have grown increasingly frustrated lately with Williams.
- Mary Pasciak