Former Common Council President says Buffalo School Board Election is "Based on Race"

Former Buffalo Common Council president George Arthur is 80-years-old, an active leader in the city's African-American community and quite blunt.

"The overwhelming majority of the black community believes this election is based on race" Arthur says.

The election is for the city school's board of education. 13 candidates are battling for three At-large seats on the nine-member board.

Normally, these elections get little attention. Not so this year.

Much of that has to do with Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown, an African-American woman at the helm of a school system where a majority of its 30,750 students are also black.

But in the two-years since her arrival, the missteps by Dr. Brown are many. There was the surprise hiring of her assistant superintendent Mary Guin, months after Guin was let go from a district consulting job. Brown's administration has yet to articulate a turn-around plan for Buffalo failing schools. And Brown defended the hiring of two administrators without proper state certification for the jobs they held. (Those two administrators, Yamilette Williams and Faith Morrison Alexander, have filed notice they intend to sue the district for improper termination.) These instances have heaped a lot of criticism on Brown.

Still, the superintendent enjoys a concentrated base of support among Buffalo's African-Americans. The city's black newspaper, The Challenger, routinely defends Brown and chides news coverage critical of her.

But the flash-point in this election was April 27th, when the Buffalo News editorial board endorsed candidates in the school board race. After interviewing all the candidates, asking them the same questions the papers choices were Larry Quinn, Patti Bowers Pierce and incumbent John Licata. All three are anti-Brown...and they are white.

"Those individuals have made a commitment to immediately vote to fireā€¦the superintendent," says Arthur.

The newspaper endorsement completely changed the conversation about the election among African-Americans.

Samuel Radford II is a frequent critic of the school administration but notes, "It's not so much about the candidates any more. It's about who supports the black community and their slate and who supports the white community and their slate."

Turn-out in Buffalo schools board contests has been notoriously low. It's often below ten-percent. Sometime turn-out is below five-percent.

Arthur is hopeful the Buffalo News endorsements have shaken African-American voters to action.

"I hope like hell it does. Yes. I got my fingers crossed and we're working hard for a large turn-out."


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