BUFFALO, NY — New York Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia was ready to answer questions, just not the one 2 On Your Side recently posed to her.
Tuesday, Elia held a telephone conference call with reporters on the results of statewide math and English Language Arts testing for elementary students.
What 2 On Your Side wanted to know was about last week's big story: the decision by Elia to remove Carl Paladino from the Buffalo School Board. That day, former member of the State Board of Regents and Chancellor Emeritus Robert Bennet told 2 On Your Side he thought it was "weak" to have removed Paladino over what boils down to a leak. Paladino disclosed portions of a behind closed-doors, executive session discussion among board members about the then on-going contract negotiations with the Buffalo Teachers Federation.
Such private conversations are permitted under the state's Open Meetings Law. But Bennett says, minus personal matters, topics of executive session discussions are expected to be eventually shared with the public at a later date.
So, at the conclusion of her conference call presentation on Tuesday, Elia took questions including one from 2 On Your Side asking Elia to explain her decision given Bennett's criticism.
This is how the minute long back-and-forth went.
MARY ELLEN ELIA: “Well, I’m not sure exactly why you felt you had to answer that question at this time. Um…happy to give you the information that we provided to everyone in the state…but we’re really here to talk about the performance of students…"
STEVE BROWN: “Ma’am, the reason I asked the question now is because you were not available nor was anyone from the Education Department on the day the decision came down.”
ELIA: “Well, I appreciate that comment and thank you. Do you want to talk about the Buffalo scores or how do you want to move forward?’
BROWN: “Ma’am, I’d like you to address the question. Could you walk us through the Carl Paladino removal in the context of what Mr. Bennett said?”
ELIA: “No, I’m not going to do that. Clearly, as you’re probably published in your media, this case is clearly not over and it’s not appropriate for me to comment.”
Paladino is preparing a legal challenge to remove him from the board.