The KCSD’s Board of Education last week waded into potentially controversial waters as it unanimously approved a pair of resolutions with both state and national implications. Trustees voted to oppose President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of education, and to support seeking the Buffalo Board of Education to remove Carl Padalino following inflammatory remarks he made to a weekly newspaper about the president and first lady.
At a meeting on Wednesday, January 11, trustees first approved BOE-60, a resolution which lamented the president-elect’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education Betsy DeVos’ lack of public school experience “as either an educator or in the administration and management of public schools,” further adding that the candidate’s support for school voucher programs, school choice programs and charter schools “threaten the provision of free and appropriate public education for all students through a public school system.”
DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and frequent campaign donor, initially backed Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina in their bids for the GOP presidential nod before supporting Marco Rubio. DeVos was critical of Trump, who she told the Washington Examiner in March 2016 was an “interloper” who “does not represent the Republican Party.”
According to the DeVos resolution, Kingston trustees are concerned the nominee had been “at the forefront of the establishment of several voucher and charter school initiatives in Michigan which have enriched the coffers of private companies and diverted scarce economic resources from the public education of students, particularly in urban areas.”
“Be it resolved that the Kingston City School District Board of Education, based on this record, opposes the confirmation of Betsy DeVos of secretary of education, and hereby calls upon the United States Senate to stand firm in opposing this nominee,” read the resolution, which was read aloud by board President Nora Scherer. The resolution added that a certified copy of the resolution should be sent by District Clerk Camille DiPerna to New York’s U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand in anticipation of DeVos’ hearing, which began this week.
“This is a very important statement for us to make,” said Trustee Robin Jacobowitz, who Scherer credited with getting the ball rolling on the resolution. “I think this is really important that we support our public schools, and this nominee will not do that.”
Fellow Trustee Suzanne Jordan encouraged area residents to reach out to Schumer and Gillibrand to show support for public schools. “Call early and often,” she said.
BOE-61 supported the efforts of calls for the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education to remove Paladino, who ran unsuccessfully for governor back in 2010, based on “unambiguously racist, morally repugnant, flagrantly disrespectful, inflammatory and inexcusable comments referring to the president and first lady of the United States” the Western New York developer made to Artvoice, a weekly newspaper.
In the paper’s Dec. 23 issue, Paladino’s written responses included his hope for 2017 was that President “Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford (sic). He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady (sic) cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.”
In response to the question of what he’d like to see go away in 2017, Paladino wrote, “Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
Paladino’s comments sparked nationwide outrage. Trustee James Shaughnessy said he felt compelled to act by introducing the idea of a resolution.
“I think it’s very important that the board of education — not only this board, but all the boards in the state — should stand in opposition to the audacity of Carl Paladino in making these types of comments,” Shaughnessy said. “He has a history of doing this that goes back to before he ran for governor in 2010. It’s outrageous.”
Shaughnessy acknowledged that it’s unusual for school boards to act on resolutions condemning the words or deeds of a colleague, but he added that this was too important to stay silent.
“[Paladino] needs to know that his behavior is unacceptable to the colleagues in public education throughout the state,” Shaughnessy said.
The Rev. James Childs, also a trustee, agreed. “I think that it’s very important that, even though we’re not on that board, we are people in this country and we need to recognize racism when we see it,” Childs said. “And if we keep quiet, it just continues to proliferate. It’s good that we speak and say that’s not what we want in this country.”
Jordan added that the resolution was in line with the district’s stance against bullying. “If you’re not going to stand up against a bully and just continually be a bystander, then we’re not teaching our children how to deal with bullying,” she said. “And this is it in its worst form.”
The Buffalo School Board will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 18, to discuss a resolution seeking the removal of Paladino as a trustee. Paladino has thus far refused to step down. The Buffalo Teachers Federation and the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization have both filed petitions seeking Paladino’s removal as well.
The next meeting of the Kingston school board is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 25.