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The ceremony, the bonus and the contract that didn't get signed

Brown swearing inPam Brown was sworn in this afternoon as Buffalo's superintendent, with a small crowd on hand for the event in City Hall.

(That's Barbara Seals Nevergold, at-large board member, on the left; Justice Rose Sconiers; Pam Brown; Mary Ruth Kapsiak, board president; and Mayor Byron Brown.)

Travel snags prevented Brown's husband from attending -- he was traveling from California, via Toronto, and customs delays combined with luggage headaches delayed him long enough to miss the ceremony.

But a small crowd made up mostly of teachers, principals and administrators were on hand for the swearing in.

The board last night approved Brown's contract, minutes after a second judge found no reason to block it.

I don't yet have a copy of the contract, but I was allowed to read a copy of it last night. 

Brown is making $217,500 a year -- plus up to $15,000 in bonus pay each year, depending on how the board rates her. She'll get an extra $15,000 if the board gives her a 4.5 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5; $10,000 if she gets a 4.0 to a 4.4; and $7,500 if she gets a 3.5 to a 3.9.

While everyone has been paying close attention to Brown's appointment and contract approval, there was a second contract the board was supposed to approve last night: the contract with Judy Elliott, the distinguished educator the state appointed in June.

Judy ElliottElliott's situation is a curious one.

The state appointed her, but it's the district that has to work out a contract with her and pay her.

"It's an interesting and pretty unique arrangement," State Ed spokesman Dennis Tompkins said.

Elliott is supposed to start work in the district on Aug. 1, and last night was the only board meeting before then. But when it came time to talk about her contract, board members said they felt they did not have enough information to make a decision. In fact, there was no written contract for them to look at.

The sticking point, attorneys for both sides said, is her salary.

Board members were clearly not thrilled with having to negotiate a contract with someone the state had imposed on them.

"It's my understanding there is no negotiation at this point -- it is a requirement SED has made of us," said Nevergold.

Brown pointed out to the board that because Elliott is supposed to begin working in the district on Aug. 1, the board will have to call a special meeting before then to approve her contract.

"I feel that we need to discuss this more thoroughly with our commissioner -- we're the guinea pig," said Florence Johnson, an at-large board member. "We're the first [district in the state] to have a distinguished educator."

During one of the board's three executive sessions last night, I had a chance to chat with Elliott's attorney, Christ Gaetanos. He confirmed that Elliott -- who lived in Western New York from the time she was 4 until she was 34 -- now lives in Florida. Buffalo will be one of a number of consulting jobs she handles, he said. She will most likely be spending about one week a month here, Gaetanos said.

- Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |