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BPS superintendent, school board member clash on parent representatives

Shouting match over school facilitators who serve as go-between for parents, school administrators.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Once again another school board meeting in Buffalo took a nasty turn with the superintendent and a school board member openly shouting at each other. 

2 On Your Side looked at what happened in the September 22 work session of the Board of Education via Zoom and the issue at the center of this very public dispute.

It started with a question to BPS Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash from board member and former board president Sharon Belton Cottman. She inquired about the progress or perceived lack of progress in hiring parent facilitators (or parent engagement liaisons as they officially known) and it eventually lead to this exchange. Here's just a portion of it.

Cash told her "You always say what's messed up. That's kinda how you do things OK and I get that.  And you get attention for that and here we go. And then one thing, and one thing, and one thing, and one thing."  

Belton Cottman says: "I don't care if you don't like it." 

Cash: "I know how to run a district."

Other presiding board member: "Order, Order "

There was also this part of their encounter. Another board member asked: "Are you talking about the parent facilitators, Sharon?

Belton-Cottman: "Yes - all I'm asking for is the list of the principals." 

Cash "We're working on that. Dr. Ramona Reynolds is working with the liaison program and has some good ideas about it."

Belton-Cottman : "So why can't - can we see a report on who has put them in place and who has not?"

Those liaisons they are arguing about serve as a go-between for parents and school administrators when those parents have various concerns about the schools with their kids.

Former board candidate Dr. Wendy Mistretta who was a facilitator years ago says they do serve a purpose and they get a stipend. But Mistretta says they were let go during last year's remote learning and apparently were not brought back. 

She says "We're at a year and a half when this could have been settled and a month into a school year that is incredibly challenging with families struggling on issues like transportation, devices and quarantines. And these liaisons play such a critical role that to not have them in place yet -  the fact that the superintendent didn't answer that question."

Going back to the meeting - the argument continued this way as board leaders tried to regain control and quiet things down. 

Cash said: "I know how to run this district." 

Belton-Cottman: "It's not a perfect  system." 

Cash was heard arguing again before Belton-Cottman said, "Stop taking it personal and do your job."

We could not reach Sharon Belton-Cottman who is one of the board members who hired Cash.

2 On Your Side requested to speak with Dr. Cash or get a comment from him about the dispute in the board meeting and to ask him about the facilitators. 

School District spokesperson Elena Cala sent this statement. "Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kriner Cash will always and unapologetically come to the spirited defense of district and building-level administrators when they are unfairly disparaged in public."

Cala said she did not have a count on how many facilitators had been brought into the schools.