Prominent corporate board members of the search firm that was hired to find a new superintendent, Heidrick & Struggles, are outspoken supporters of charter schools. The search they conducted for the City of Philadelphia, not surprisingly, resulted in a pro-charter school superintendent by the name of James Nevels. The School Board members who are currently defending the secrecy of the search on the grounds that an open, democratic process would “scare away” qualified candidates, are Denise Hanlon and Chris Jacobs – outspoken charter school advocates.

Under the guise of finding the “best possible candidate” M&T Bank CEO, and outspoken charter school proponent Bob Wilmers kicked in around $100,000 for the search. The strings attached to Mr. Wilmers’ benevolence were made clear last year when he demanded that Westminster School (a Buffalo public school the M&T financially supported) be converted to a charter school or lose all of his support. The Wilmers crew has never stopped to actually ask the obvious question of why Buffalo Public School are so grossly underfunded in the first place. They’d rather play right wing radical hardball with the education of innocent children as the stake. What does all this point to? We can’t be sure because of all the secrecy but our guess is that it bodes well for the “privatizers.”

A few months ago, a public meeting at Bennett High School was scheduled to allow representatives of Heidrick & Struggles to explain their process to the public. Not only did they fail to show up, but the meeting as far as we know, has not been rescheduled. Parents and other interested citizens were left to vent to each other before a table with two empty chairs. Perhaps we are overstating their ties to the charter school movement, but the public didn’t get to hear their side of the story because they didn’t show up.

The creation of more charter schools at the present time would bankrupt the Buffalo Public School system. For some people, that appears to be the goal. Why would school board members like Jacobs and Hanlon pursue such an irresponsible course? Because it would allow them to privatize the whole damn thing. That’s why. And in order to make it happen they need a Superintendent who is on the same page.

Has Chris Jacobs ever recused himself from a vote on Charter Schools? After all, he has a financial interest in Bison Academy, a charter school in the City of Buffalo. If he already holds a financial interest in charter schools, he could potentially benefit from the establishment of more charter schools. Of course, political office holders routinely cut deals for their friends, and are then in turn, cut in once they leave office. This has become acceptable, ethical behavior in the American culture.

We have no way of knowing whether or not this will be the case with Jacobs, but it’s a troubling scenario. You can’t blame Jacobs, though. Voters put him there. They were convinced to vote for him, in part, because he was able to easily outspend his opponents and he also enjoyed the full support of The Buffalo News. As it turns out the votes cast for Jacobs and his henchwoman, Denise Hanlon were, in reality, votes against the right to vote.

"If we don't protect people's confidentiality, we're going to shoot ourselves in the foot," Jacobs told The Buffalo News. "We're elected by the community to represent them. The superintendent's choice is one of the things we have been elected to do."

In other words, now that they are in office, Jacobs and his cohorts have not only the right to impose an anti-democratic process in appointing a new superintendent, but also the right to turn that “choice” that he talks about into a one (handpicked, pro-charter school ) candidate, yea or nay rubber-stamp “vote.” If the nays are able to carry, they will have to answer for the money that will have been wasted on the Republican-friendly search firm of Heidrick & Struggles.

It’s time for Americans, in general, and Buffalonians in particular,to take a look at the increasing level of secrecy in government, from the Bush Administration blatant disregard for FOIA laws to County Governement’s “closed door” budget discussions to the search for the Buffalo School superintendent, we need to heed the cautionary dictum of Justice Louis Brandeis: “Democracy dies behind closed doors.”

A vote for a right wing radical, be it George Bush, George Pataki or Chris Jacobs, is a vote AGAINST democracy.

For our complete story about Heidrick And Struggles go to our website or click on the following link; By John McMahon

The intense secrecy surrounding the Buffalo Board of Education’s search for a new Superintendent calls to mind the old expression, “What’s done in the dark, must come into the light.”

It’s time to get rid of the smoke and mirrors, before this goes any further. The people who engineered the rules for this Superintendent search, did so with one goal in mind: the privatization of the Buffalo Public Schools through the mechanism of charter schools.