It was almost Old Home Week for the Buffalo School Board Wednesday night, as its seven members interviewed the first four candidates to fill the vacant Park District seat. All of the candidates had applied the last time the seat was open. One was even a former board member who served as president.
Carl Paladino no longer occupies the board's Park District seat, but his name came up during interviews. Kevin Lafferty said he wants to run against the developer and beat him.
"Public education is under attack at the federal level, at the state level and at the local level," Lafferty said. "I don't want this board to come under attack anymore - and I will say him by name. Carl Paladino is probably sitting, waiting. I want to take him on. I can beat him. Out of the seven people you're going to see today and tomorrow, I'm the one who wants to run against him. I want to take him on. I want to beat him."
Catherine Flanagan-Priore was appointed to replace Paladino and recently quit over the school nurse disruption. Three more people will be interviewed Thursday, after which the board might make a decision.
Board members asked each candidate specific questions, with Paulette Woods asking about segregation.
"Buffalo is listed as one of the most segregated cities in America," Woods said. "In the past, this district has been cited for violations in civil rights and disparity in treatment. I'd like to know your understanding of disparity in treatment. Do you have any solutions for addressing the disparities, inequities in this school system?"
There were varied answers, as with other questions, like from Board Member Jennifer Mecozzi. She asked whether the candidate would run next year for the seat, as an incumbent or not. All board seats are on the ballot next year, either in May or November.
Former Board President Donald Van Every said he has retired from Erie County, but is ready to work.
"If you appointed me tomorrow night and made that decision, I would be honored on Friday morning to go around to every building in my district and say, 'What's going on?'" Van Every said. "I know School 67 is looking for a principal. I know that the building, that the temporary Emerson population, is restless, anxious to have their building. I'm ready to get busy on those issues on Friday."
He was elected to the board twice and appointed once.
Under questioning, candidate Carolette Meadows said equity in education is a key factor in improving schools.
"Once you have equity, everything else falls in place," Meadows said. "As for education program services, once all of those things are even and all children have equitable access to resources, then that educational goals that we seek, we will eventually achieve."
Meadows is a product of city schools, with two-public school children.
Candidate Adam Bojak, an attorney and product of East Aurora schools, reached back to that when asked what could be done about Buffalo's continuing out-of-school suspension issues, citing his experience seeing classmates suspended.
"Not because they were unintelligent or they were acting out in a serious way," Bojak said. "This is, of course, East Aurora, so this is an entirely different thing, but a lot of them had some disabilities and, I imagine, these days we would be a little bit more receptive to those. We would be able to recognize them better."
Suspensions were the question area for Board Member Patricia Pierce, a retired Buffalo police officer and current investigator for the Erie County District Attorney's Office who sees people who crashed and burned academically.