BUFFALO – The tumultuous battle between a faction of the Buffalo School Board and Superintendent Pamela Brown officially concluded Monday, with the board voting to accept Brown's resignation and appoint an associate superintendent to the interim post.
Following the election of Larry Quinn and Patti Bowers-Pierce -- which signaled the impending arrival of a new majority on July 1 with the power to remove her from office -- Brown announced her intention to step down last month. With her resignation now official, she will receive roughly $240,000 as a part of her buyout package, which includes her 2014-15 salary, vacation, bonuses and consulting fees.
To succeed Brown, the board tapped Will Keresztes, a 16-year veteran of the district who just completed his seventh year as the Associate Superintendent for Educational Services.
"I promise to do my very best," he said, addressing the board for the first time as the interim superintendent. "You deserve a transition that does not cause distractions."
But Keresztes likely will not lead the district for long. As a temporary "interim to the interim," Keresztes may only serve as superintendent for a few weeks, in order to give the board time to select a more permanent candidate. Board members Jason McCarthy and Barbara Nevergold are both on record as saying they'd prefer one-year contracts for that new interim superintendent, which would avoid a long-term commitment for the district.
"I think we want to get this done as soon as we possibly can," board member James Sampson said, "to make sure there's permanent leadership to help set the course for what we're doing in these schools."
WEB EXTRA: Read Will Keresztes's resume.
But before they can find that one-year replacement, the board needs Keresztes to keep the school district running.
"Three weeks in a large urban school district, there's a lot that goes on. A lot of things that we're planning for," Keresztes said. "And more importantly, a lot of decisions."
In his first recommendation to the board, Keresztes asked to rescind the decision to close PS 39 Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute. He also recommended rescinding the merger between Middle Early College and MST Prep.
Brown did not attend Monday's meeting.
Sampson said he hasn't spoken with her.
"She came here with good faith, worked very, very hard, accomplished some good things, and I'd like to wish her well," Sampson said.
Carl Paladino, who jumpstarted the anti-Brown sentiment by repeatedly calling for her resignation after his election to the school board in May 2013, coincidentally voted against the resolution to accept Brown's resignation. Paladino said he's not bothered by the hefty buyout package, but instead takes issue with a letter of recommendation attached to her resignation.
But this is still the result he'd been waiting for.
"I hold the board members [accountable], for bringing her on, and putting her in that kind of position, when she did not have the qualities necessary to do the job," Paladino said.
Theoretically, Keresztes could apply for the long-term interim superintendent position, but he said he hasn't thought that far ahead yet. For now, he'll control the district as a placeholder, tasked with finding a way to bridge the gap between Brown and a new leader.
"I really believe that she had a lot of successes," Keresztes said. "And students will benefit for a long time as a result of her tenure here as superintendent."