Focus on Education
9:25 am
Tue May 6, 2014

East Side parents want change on school board

The much anticipated Buffalo School Board election is finally here. City voters are encouraged to head to the polls throughout the day Tuesday to vote for three-at-large school members. Thirteen candidates are vying for three-at-large seats. But with a divided school board and tough criticism laid on the schools superintendent -- this election has drawn more attention than normal. 

Traditionally voter turnout for the school board election is about 10-percent, but it appears this race has caught the attention of some parents. As part of our Focus on Education reporting, WBFO'S Eileen Buckley talked to some parents on the city's East Side for their opinion on today's election.

You could hear the chatter of young voices in the hallway of the CAO HeadStart.  It's one of the pre-school programs for inner-city students at True Bethel Church on East Ferry.  Buffalo's HeadStart programs are a very important part of early childhood and future classroom development. It is where you will find a great deal of interest in today's school board election.

Inside the CAO HeadStart program at True Bethel on East Ferry in Buffalo.
Inside the CAO HeadStart program at True Bethel on East Ferry in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"I believe the board is divided because everyone has their own agenda," said Shantell Duncan, a pre-school teacher at CAO HeadStart and a Buffalo parent.  Duncan, like many city parents, is tired of hearing about controversy with the current school board as many schools are failing and parents want students transferred to achieving schools.

"I feel like they are saying one thing, then once they get into the board, it's always something different. And "I believe the classrooms are overcrowded, and then if they don't have a teacher assistant, now you have one teacher with 30-children, and they're not getting what they need," said Duncan.  "I believe that they should focus more on the children versus instead of focusing on each other because in the end, the children will lose out."

Duncan tells WBFO News Tuesdays' election rates high on her priority list.  She will be voting  and hopes the outcome of the race stops the constant in-fighting on the school board.  

Duncan also holds parents responsible for their child's education.

"Parent's have to pick up their step as well and get involved, because their first teacher to children are the parents, and school teacher just enhance what the parents have already taught them, and if the parents haven't, then we have to come together as a community and help the children."

Duncan said she believes many other inner-city parents are paying attention and desire change on the school board.  

Shayla Jackson is one of those parents.  Jackson works as a case manager at the HeadStart program.

"For the sake of the community -- these kids -- like everyday you see them outside. They're hopeless," said Jackson.

Jackson is also the parent of a 14-year-old. But given the amount of failing schools and dysfunction in the district, Jackson decided to send him to a charter school.  Still, as a Buffalo resident she's fed up.

"It's very frustrating. I'm a black woman. I live in a black community and regardless, it's our kids," said Jackson. "At the end of the day, this is our future, and it's sad to that no one really cares. It's all about a dollar sign. Everything is political. I don't care what side you are on, you know, no one is really thinking about the kids."

Jackson said she believes parents do care, but many work and or don't have the opportunity to vote. However, Jackson is committed to casting her vote to make sure her voice is heard at the polls.