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News Board of Education Endorsements Further the City's Racial Divide

The Buffalo News’s failure to endorse an African American or Hispanic candidate for the upcoming Board of Education election is a slap in the face to the city’s need for diversity and the importance of involving these community’s in addressing the current school board problems. The News’ April 27, 2014 editorial endorsement is very disturbing because it admits that these communities should be ignored and purposely left out of the effort to change the school board with the statement that, “Sadly, the School Board has been divided by race, and our endorsements won’t do much to close that racial divide. We recognize the value of a diverse School Board in this majority black district. But radical change is necessary, and after much discussion, the editorial board backs the three candidates we believe have shown the commitment to dramatically change the district, and have the background to make it happen.”

As representatives of the African-American and Hispanic communities, we believe that having a representative and diverse school board is vital to developing the changes needed to address the important issues of failing schools and racial segregation. The News has documented these problems in recent articles earlier this year, supposedly using the analysis for viewing this upcoming school board election as an opportunity to bring forth new leadership.

If read very carefully, clearly the editorial position taken along with the three endorsed candidates does not forecast new leadership. Rather it subtly condones the current and historic problems of racial segregation in both the school district and the city’s neighborhoods. The News’s editorial position not so subtly states that the three endorsed candidates are the only ones “best suited” for this year’s election even though “many people are running who, in another year, could easily rise to the top of any list.” This rationale is reminiscent of the Jim Crow era that African-American leadership is incompetent and should be replaced at all costs.

If the News admits that many of the people running this year would be top candidates in another election year, what makes this year so different to not continue supporting diversity and racial balance as has been espoused in years past?

The reason is that the News is admittedly using the ouster of Superintendent Pamela Brown as the focal point for their endorsements and supposed dramatic change. This is unprecedented. During her short tenure, Superintendent Brown has been consistently demonized by the News and her opponents on the school board. The three endorsed candidates are all supported by Carl Paladino, Brown’s leading opponent, whom the News apparently has anointed to take over the school board.

This was forecast in a News editorial dated February 14, 2014 that highlighted the experience and ability of the potential candidates for the school board which included both African-American and Hispanic representation. What was revealing in that same editorial is the News’s buy-in to the racial divide that “Paladino and those aligned with him may or may not have the best approaches to fixing this district, but it won’t be fixed politely.”

We believe that true systemic improvements to the school district will not occur without developing a greater sense of unity and collaboration around progressive policies at the school board level, with teachers and especially at the community level. The News has exhibited its small-mindedness in not supporting Board President Barbara Nevergold, who is exceptionally qualified, providing fair leadership in addressing the school district’s problems, but happens to support the superintendent. How is she less qualified than Larry Quinn, who obviously knows more about hockey than the school district?

The News sees the pending school board election as a “watershed moment” for dramatically changing and improving the city schools. The school district’s problems have existed long before Superintendent Brown’s tenure and will exist long after, especially if we do not work together.

We condemn the News’s position as inappropriate, condescending, and racially charged.

It is our view that their endorsements as they stand only set the stage for more division and gridlock, where a majority African-American school district and community have been systematically alienated again!

> George K. Arthur

> James W. Pitts

> David A. Collins

> Archie Amos

> Roger I. Blackwell

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