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Williams Evaluation a Conflict of Interest?

dyouville She may have lost her seat on the school board in the May 5 election, but that is not stopping outgoing board member Catherine Collins from fulfilling her duty as Chairperson of the Executive Affairs Committee.

Tomorrow, May 20, the committee will meet in room 801 in city hall, at 4pm. Among the topics addressed will be the evaluation of Superintendent James Williams. These evaluations can lead to contract extensions and raises for the superintendent. (Click here for a copy of the Williams’s contract signed by board member Florence Johnson on May 23, 2007.)

Yesterday was the deadline for school board members to submit their evaluations of Williams to Sister Denise Roche, President of D’Youville College.

Roche is scheduled to give a summary presentation to the Executive Affairs Committee tomorrow at 6pm.

On Friday, May 15, I called Sister Roche to ask about her involvement with the superintendent’s evaluation—something she has participated in before. I left a message to that effect with her secretary. I called again yesterday, and was told she was out of town.

I left a message saying I was seeking comment from her about whether she felt it was appropriate for a nun, the president of a college, to be involved in the evaluation of the superintendent of a school system that pays that college somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million per year to house one of its schools, in this case, the DaVinci Academy. According to school district documents, the current annual cost to the district is $1.1 million, or $790,000, excluding capital improvements. The lease with D’Youville expires in August 2013, and was signed by Roche.

Repeated attempts to contact Roche have been unsuccessful. Today I left a message indicating that I was trying to get Roche’s response to a letter delivered to her yesterday by school board member Catherine Nugent Panepinto—a formal request that Roche recuse herself from further involvement in the superintendent’s evaluation.

“I greatly appreciate your willingness to coordinate the evaluation and greatly respect your commitment to education in Buffalo. However, your status as a signatory to a contract with the Board of Education raises a conflict of interest with your role as evaluation coordinator,” Nugent Panepinto writes, “Interests such as your interest in the contract between D’Youville College and the Board of Education are generally addressed in New York State General Municipal Law § 800, wherein conflicts of interest are defined.”

Nugent Panepinto took heat from some board members at last night’s meeting, for sending the letter to Roche.

It seems clear that Roche will not respond to the  inquiries of a  journalist, but maybe she will respond to the request of a school board member.

Then again, maybe she won’t.

  • John Q Blogger

    Do not confuse ethics in the same sentence with the name of Sister Denise Roche.

    She deals from the bottom of the deck when your watching.

  • Though I am not familiar with the machinations of this particular catholeducational institution I am well aware what you my friend may be in for in attempting to ask a nun to be forthcoming and deign to answer any of your questions. When my daughter was expelled from our nearby Catholic high school I was never allowed my say, none of my questions were deemed worth answering. The overtly phoney attempt to pretend that they were not acting on the wishes of a major donor’s family (whose granddaughter had a problem with my girl) was carried out to the bitter end. These people operate under cover and thick insulation, they feel no need to be troubled with people who don’t have a checkbook in hand or a free smartboard to donate to them. I wish you better luck than I had but I wouldn’t count on it. They have institutionalized a form of edu-religious hubris that transcends all reason.

  • Peter A Reese

    It appears that Sister Roche is acting in the role of a judge in this evaluation process. The standard for judicial recusal is that even the appearance of bias should be avoided. When any doubt arises, and it is usually better to recuse than not. Therefore, Ms. Nugent Panepinto is correct in her assertions and the good Sister should recuse herself. As a resident of the North School District, I am pleased that my elected representative has shown the wisdom and courage which she has displayed. It would be nice if all the trustees of our schools behaved similarly.

  • John Szablewski

    As the Senior Class President of Da Vinci high School and the Supervisor of the campaign to preserve it on the D’Youville College Campus, I believe that Ms Panepinto has the right idea. Sister Denise should not be involved in this because we are currently in a situation where da Vinci needs a new lease to stay on the campus. This is a conflict of interest and Sister Denise should not be asked to do such a task.

  • Peter A Reese

    John S:

    Gutsy move to post here. Nice to see from kids today. Hope you suffer no retaliation.

  • Carlota Magdalena

    My daughter attended Da Vinci High School a few years ago. It was a very repressive place to be. Students were not allowed in the college book store or eat in the college cafeteria. The building used to be a dormitory and at one time or still housed elderly nuns on the top floor. It’s simply too small for 400 students and it was made to house only 300. It’s a second choice school for those students unable to get into City Honors. The principal allowed very little parental involvement in the school and she was present at the meetings and pretty much determine the officers. Although students are able to take college courses, the campus is off-limits to the Da Vinci students. At the tune of $1 million in rent annually, the students should be more integrated into the college campus–and be allocated more space; use the college cafeteria, the college bookstore, the swimming facilities, etc. What about travel abroad programs similar to what City Honors students experience? These students deserve much more than what they are getting. So they need to get more for their $1 Million or its time to move….

  • Catherine Nugent Panepinto

    Retire the Debt Party tonight at 153 Bidwell to celebrate John Licata’s win for an at large seat on the Buffalo School Board. Please come to celebrate and make a donation for John’s largely self funded campaign. Thankfully, he spent about 1/10th of what the Partnership spent so he only needs small donations. Donations in lieu of attending can be made out to Friends of John Licata and mailed to the Bidwell address above – 153 Bidwell. thank you.

  • Can we safely assume that the allegations of impropriety raised immediately after the election, the ones regarding THE PARTNERSHIP, will go the way of the McKinley High inquiries, the ResulTech hustle and the laptops from 44 ? Smart money says we’ll never hear another word about any of it. Good luck John Licata !

  • Peter A Reese


    How much smart money you willing to wager on this one? We are more than a little persistent.

  • Peter A. You know I hope you’re right my friend. Plus I never said my money had any smarts now did I ? One does weary of the endless parade of do-overs when people should be facing consequences for a litany of abhorrent behaviors.