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Board members call Guinn's appointment "deceptive," "disrespectful" and "sinful"

Our story in today's paper referred to the lack of transparency in the hiring of the Interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn, but we simply didn't have enough inches to throw in the many comments of outrage and disapproval levied against the superintendent and board president for the way the vote went down.

As noted in our stories, former consultant Guinn was supported 5-3 by the board Wednesday even though several board members had no idea the issue was coming up. During a lengthy closed session at the end of the regular board meeting, Superintendent Pamela Brown and President Barbara Nevergold expressed their mistaken belief that the superintendent could name a deputy superintendent without board approval.

But outside education lawyer Karl Kristoff informed Brown and Nevergold during that private meeting that they were mistaken in their assumption, which they clearly didn't vet with Kristoff beforehand even though they knew Guinn's appointment was bound to be a controversial and high-profile matter.

We spoke with board members, community residents and PR folks about how Guinn was hired. We got an earful. Here is more of what they had to say:

- Board member Jason McCarthy, the board's vice president of executive affairs, was absent Wednesday night and said part of the reason no one knew about the Guinn matter before Wednesday night was because he was out of town.

McCarthy, who doesn't support Guinn, said he typically meets with Brown and the other board officers the Monday prior to board meetings to discuss upcoming board issues. He said on Thursday that he believes the superintendent and other board officers took advantage of his absence to secretly push this through.

  "I got off an airplane from out of the country, and I got a text message that Mary Guinn was rehired," he said, referring to the 9:39 p.m. text message he received at JFK. "My vote wouldn't count but I certainly would have liked to have given my opinion on the matter."

- Board members James Sampson, McCarthy and Carl Paladino respectively described what transpired Wednesday night as "disrespectful," "deceptive" and "sinful."

" 'Last-minute' is not what happened," said board member Carl Paladino said. "It was done intentionally to avoid transparency, to avoid dialogue, to avoid public input, to avoid board input."

- Bill Collins, principal at Travers Collins public relations firm said it takes more than simply saying change is on the way to convince others that it will actually happen. A person has to physically make the change. And it doesn't take a PR expert to see that, he said.

Neither Collins or his firm has done any work for Brown and the school district, but after Wednesday night's heated debate over Guinn at the end of the business meeting, he said it seems that transparency may be an issue with Brown, Collins said.

"You can talk transparency all you want but actions speak louder than words," he said. "My guiding principal in terms of public relations is what you do, not what you say you're going to do," he said. "It's the foundation of effective PR and effective relations with your constituents."

- Resident Dwayne Kelly said that the way the Guinn resolution was brought up and voted on Wednesday night was "political suicide" and that it diminished any of Brown's hopes of gaining any more support from prospective board members in the upcoming elections.

"I think they just gave the election away," he said. "Now you've shown your opponents that you are as bad as they are," he said.

- Nevergold said she recognizes the deep divisions on the board and knows that this latest episode doesn't help breach the gap.

"The board is polarized and certainly, this is another wedge issue," she said, "but it seems that ... we continue to deal with issues between adults. We can disagree, but can we find some ways to move forward? It’s been very difficult."

Although board members' positions regarding Guinn had not changed over the past several months prior to Wednesday's vote, she said, "I do agree all the board members should have been aware of what was to happen."

Finally, we would note that we did reach out Thursday to other board members who voted in favor of Guinn's hiring, including Sharon Belton-Cottman, Theresa Harris-Tigg and Mary Ruth Kapsiak. They didn't call us back. 

- Sandra Tan and Deidre Williams

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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 | djgee@buffnews.com


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 | tlankes@buffnews.com


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 | stan@buffnews.com


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 | dswilliams@buffnews.com

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