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Another shouting match diverts Buffalo School Board meeting

Mike Desmond

The Buffalo School Board Wednesday talked about trying to change meetings so they work better and end earlier, but it turned into a couple of shouting matches.

The board is well known for its often endless and acrimonious sessions, whether regular board sessions or work sessions. Wednesday night was a work session, with some important issues on the schedule.

After lamenting her experience during 18 months on the board, the North District's Hope Jay proposed setting up a sub-committee to talk about how to be more productive. She noted the constant fights when Carl Paladino was on the board. Jay said meetings are often messy and tangled, and there has to be a better way.

"Often times, we go off on tangents. We're not able to stick to a topic and sometimes, certain individuals or maybe all of us at one time or another monopolize the conversation," Jay said. "We don't have beginning times or end times. We don't follow any rules as far as how often people can speak and how long they can speak."

Some board members recognized there are serious problems about the process during meetings, often diverting from what is on the agenda and getting into long discussions. However, eventually, Jay withdrew her motion and the schedule started.

That led to a screaming match between Board Members Sharon Belton-Cottman and Larry Quinn - two frequent antagonists - initially about a time limit.

"I don't want to listen to you talk all night [overlapping conversation], but go ahead," Quinn said. "Keep it up."

"Thank you," Belton-Cottman said, "because you did for several years make it up [overlapping conversation]. Jesus. I don't understand why we're having this conversation. Just flow."

"I know you don't," said Quinn.

"Just flow," Belton-Cottman repeated.

However, there was more.

"No, hers is not. If she needs additional time, Mr. Quinn, you're not going to dictate [overlapping conversation] and guess what?" Belton-Cottman continued, "the board has a right to do an exception to the policy. If she gets involved in a budget discussion, are you going to tell me this board is going to stop in the middle of it because the time goes off?"

"I don't know," Quinn said.

"That's the problem," Belton-Cottman continued. "If you don't want to put the time in to do the job: Why are you here?"

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash stayed out of that one, as did several board members.

The more informal nature of work sessions allowed an extended discussion of the tenuous budget situation, while waiting for the state budget decision on how much aid there will be for the district and how the internal discipline system for faculty and staff is supposed to work.

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