The Buffalo Public School District is under pressure to improve failing schools and boost graduation rates in a contentious time for school leadership. There are more than a dozen candidates vying for three at-large school board seats. WBFO, WNED-TV and The Buffalo News teamed to record interviews with those who will appear on the May 6 ballot. Friday, May 2 at 8 p.m. you can tune in for "Schools at a Crossroads: Interviews with Buffalo School Board Candidates" on WNED-TV.
The interviews were conducted by WBFO'S senior reporter Eileen Buckley and Buffalo News education reporters Tiffany Lankes, Deidre Williams, Mary Pasiak and Sandra Tan. You can listen to all 13-interviews the interviews below listed in alphabetical order:
Stephen Buccilli is a civil engineer at Watts Architecture and Engineering. The north Buffalo resident is married to a city school district. Buccilli said there needs to be more transparency from the district and parents must have a voice school policy and programs that affect the education of their children.
Samuel Davis, Buffalo resident, criminal defense attorney and former teacher. Davis said he believes the classroom dynamic is the biggest issue in the district. Davis wants to see city school teachers quip to deal with the social and emotional health as well as the welfare of a child's education. Davis is a parent.
Adrian Harris is a long-time Buffalo resident with an education background. He works as a teacher's aide in the Lancaster Central School District. Harris said as a parent, educator and homeowner, he could deliver the right mix to the school board in an attempt to bring everyone together for 'a common vision'.
Ralph Hernandez is a former Buffalo Board of Education member. Hernandez had served for nine years as the West District representative. Hernandez said he believes the current board has "forgotten why they were sent there".
John Licata is an attorney at the Erie County Water Authority. Licata is the incumbent candidate in this school board race. He said the largest issue facing the district is not graduating a majority of students. Licata said hat's the primary purpose of the district and it is "not succeeding".
Wendy Mistretta serves as a executive committee member of the District Parent Coordinating Council. Mistretta said she believes "inequitable access" to high quality programs for students is a big issue the District faces.
Barbara Seals Nevergold is the incumbent candidate, currently serving as Buffalo School Board president. Seals Nevergold said said under the current leadership, she feels progress has been made in the district.
Patricia Pierce, a long-time Buffalo resident, is a confidential criminal investigator for the Erie County District Attorney's Office. Pierce notes that "leadership" is the most problematic situation within the city school district.
Larry Quinn is the former managing partner of the Buffalo Sabres. Quinn said he believes the biggest issue is those failing city schools. Quinn believes in school choice for parents so they won't be forced to send their child to a failing school.
Sergio Rodriguez is the former Buffalo Mayoral candidate. Rodriguez said a lack of communication between the district and parent s is having a big impact and suggests the district get parents involved early on in some of the decision making.
Gizelle Stokes is a social worker for King Center Charter School in Buffalo. Stokes said the lack of parental engagement is a major issue in the district's dysfunction and decisions are being made without parents involved in the process.
Bernie Tolbert is a former Buffalo mayoral candidate and former leader of Buffalo's FBI office. Tolbert said he believes a lack of a governance structure is preventing the district from surpassing the dysfunction to moving forward improving education.
Stephon Wright is the former student representative to the Buffalo School board. Wright currently attends Erie Community College and is a product of Buffalo Schools. Wright is very concerned about divided school board.