BUFFALO, N.Y. — All nine seats on the Buffalo School Board are up for grabs this Tuesday, with three seats at-large, and another six seats in defined districts.
Only two of those six districts have contested races, with the other four districts consisting of candidates running unopposed. Those uncontested races are in the North, West, Central, and Ferry districts.
Polls will be open in Buffalo from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 7.
We reached out to all candidates in the running for contested seats to see what their top priorities for the district are, as well as their opinions on the work of Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash. Their responses are below.
Desmond Nalls - At-Large candidate
"My 'top' priority once I'm elected to the At-Large seat will be reviewing the budget line by line and working with the District lawyers to better understand the upcoming contract negotiations.
Dr. Cash has provided the District with a roadmap for success with the 'Education Bargain'. I believe in continuity, if he decides to remain with the District we need to ensure that we are not just creating future budgets that rely heavily on Say Yes funding and that we are doing more to put workforce readiness into the narrative for public education. If he decides not to renew his contract, I want to see interim leadership selected from the current cabinet of Superintendent administrators."
Tim Hartigan - At-Large candidate
"After working to settle the BPS-BTF contract, renewing Dr. Cash is the most important budget responsibility of the new board. I would vote to renew him for many reasons, two of which are that we need stability at the top and graduation rates have improved under his leadership. Perhaps his strongest deficiency is in the graduation and drop-out rates on non-native speakers of English, but overall, he has been a good leader. The one caveat is that he is making approximately $300,000. If we can keep him within, say, 15% of that salary, it’s a good investment. If he feels that his pay should double, then a new superintendent search will have to be undertaken.
Working to improve the literacy rates and educational outcomes for English Language Learners would be at the top of my list for items to address. If these improve so too will the graduation rate for refugee and immigrant students."
Jack Kavanaugh - At-Large candidate
"In regards to top priority, it is ensuring fair and equitable funding across the district, for all students, and inviting more community involvement into the budgeting process. In regards to Dr. Kash - we are lucky to have him as long he will stay - no one is perfect and he has made mistakes, and the Board needs to do a better job holding him accountable, but he is the strongest superintendent we've had in a long time."
Jeffrey Conrad - At-Large candidate
"My top priorities to be addressed by the district if I am elected are Math & Literacy rates, equitable school service and staffing levels, and increased career & technical program opportunities
In general, I would be supportive of extending the Superintendent’s contract. However, I would like the opportunity to review past evaluations from the previous board to ensure that past contractual obligations were met, full review of key educational outcome measures during the Superintendent’s tenure, a review of key district accomplishments, a review of key issues that still need to be addressed, in addition to identifying upcoming priorities the Superintendent would like to pursue. Any new contract for the Superintendent should include educational outcomes, financial accountability, and operational efficiency goals."
Terrance Heard - At-Large candidate
"With so many concerns, it is difficult to list just one top priority. But, as a Board of Education Member, one of my main objectives is to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and implement restorative justice practices in all of our schools. I will work to accomplish this objective by providing all students with a competitive education, safe classrooms, after-school programming, in-school suspensions, as well as increasing mentoring and counseling programs for students and families. As a Court Liaison, I pleaded in over 40,000 felony cases. The common narrative in about 99% of the cases was that the offender did not have a high school diploma or GED. With Buffalo’s graduation rate in the low 60s, some of our children may be on this same path if we do not address the sociological and psychological barriers that our students face in the classrooms and in their homes.
As a Board of Education Member, I would work to renew Dr. Kriner Cash’s contract. Dr. Cash inherited a tough task when he accepted the Superintendent position of the Buffalo Public Schools. As of today, I believe Dr. Cash has performed well in working with the School Board Members and has a good understanding of what is best for our students. His focus on graduation rates and after-school programming are excellent, as well as his relationship-building skills and the ability to think outside-the-box. Dr. Cash’s focus on improving Buffalo Public Schools has led to increased graduation rates and the number of schools in “good standing”, implementation of new innovative high schools, Community Schools on Saturdays, and improved relationships with all stakeholders - students, parents, teachers, and the community."
Ann Rivera - At-Large candidate
"Here are my top priorities:
- enhance student supports in and out of the classroom to help implement trauma responsive educational practices;
- fully implement the Code of Conduct, recommendations of TAC-D and align restorative practices with the current suspension policy to reduce disproportionate suspensions;
- fully implement student supports to support students with high needs, including students with disabilities;
- increase access to a diverse, high-quality inclusive curriculum that that builds on best practices already in the district;
- implement prudent, efficient spending and enhance the pursuit of grant opportunities to support initiatives within the New Educational Bargain; and
- optimize the SBMT process to be more responsive to the needs of each school community.
I feel that the New Educational Bargain has made some very important advances, but it needs full implementation throughout the district. As a result, I would be willing to consider extending the Superintendent's contract, but it would depend on the terms of the contract."
Carolette Meadows - At-Large candidate
We have not heard back from Meadows, but will update this story if and when she responds with her answers.
Larry Scott - At-Large candidate
Scott did not specifically reply to our questions on his platform and Superintendent Cash, but urges you to visit his website to learn about his priorities.
Austin Harig - Park District candidate
"My top priority if I win the election is to investigate where the district’s budget is going and attempt to negotiate better deals with contractors and other providers who I have found frequently upcharge their services on the taxpayer's dime. With more efficient use of money and better deals, I hope to direct funds toward teachers aids, career and technology education, music and arts, and improving the student to counselor ratio. I believe that we need to improve our schools from the ground up."
Lou Petrucci - Park District candidate (incumbent)
While the district has seen some improvements, there is still much work to be done. We need to improve our graduation and attendance rates. We need to provide greater opportunity for children to take AP courses, art, music, etc. I am concerned with student placement concentrating a disproportionate number of high needs children in a limited number of schools. We have to be sensitive to our budget because every dollar is precious even in district of our size particularly if we want to maintain the increased staffing levels in relation to student population and expand offerings. In the Park District specifically, people are concerned about maintaining staffing levels and proposed cuts to successful programs such as the Hillside program at South Park. And while our buildings are safe, people are concerned about the well being of children on the way to school. We are hopeful that the new traffic camera program will reduce speeding in school zones. There is much work to be done and I hope that my experience and education can help move the district forward to where we all want it to be.
Dr. Cash's policies, including his Educational Bargain, have begun to show results for the district. His success has been recognized by the Council of Great City Schools, where he was a finalist for Superintendent of the Year, in addition to other awards and recognitions. His success with the district should be recognized and rewarded. I would support extending his contract. Successful school districts have stable and continuous senior staff which the district has and is seeing the benefits of.
Kathy Evans-Brown - East District candidate
"My top priorities as a school board member should I win the East District School Board Seat will be:
The issue of equity among the schools and resources the school board controls to support low performing schools with additional resources necessary to augment increased assistance necessary. Moreover, school boards can use the data and reports to promote equity of resources within and across the schools in the district. In addition, the issue of equitable access to advanced courses should be available to all students in the district. There are many students in our schools who are capable of Advanced Placement Math and Science if they have access.
Arguably the issue of increased full-time Latino, Black and Bi-Lingual teachers has become a ‘hot topic’ in Buffalo Public Schools. Research shows that Latino, Black and Bi-Lingual teachers are not going into the field of education. Likewise, students have reported that they have not had any exposure with a minority teacher throughout their high school career. Despite the fact that BPS has begun to pilot a project that involves 11th-grade students at McKinley High School who has shown interest in teaching, collaborating with SUNY Buffalo State College; it is a tangible start. However, the Board will need to delve into this issue as a matter of urgency to increase diversity in the teaching force.
Increase graduation rates from 68% to a minimum of 80%. The value of a high school diploma should be meaningful to all high school graduates. I believe that when a student graduate from high school, they should be prepared to get into college and/or have a meaningful vocational skill (i.e. machinery, welding, bricklaying, advanced manufacturing, etc.) to support him/herself if they choose not to go directly to postsecondary education.
Optimal Parent Engagement: Research shows that children are more successful in school when parents are involved in their education. Specifically, because poverty is prevalent among a large proportion of children attending BPS, schools gain positively when they partner and collaborate with parents. I would like to see more visibility of concerned parents in the schools during the school day to optimize their engagement.
Alternatives to Suspension. Research shows that Black males are twice more likely to be suspended from school than their White counterparts for the same offense. Suspension should be a last resort in most cases unless there is clear evidence of violence and/or bodily harm to self or others.” I would like to work on an alternative plan to suspension where students can obtain a consistent education throughout the year. This will eliminate them from being at risk of dropping out of high school. Perhaps coming up with a structured in school suspension plan that is meaningful, structured and monitored by an employed “Graduation Coach” that specifically deal with suspended students.
District leadership. It appears that the New Education Bargain (collaboration with school, parents and students) that the superintendent has implemented for the Buffalo School District has made significant inroads during his tenure in Buffalo. We are now seeing 56 mental health clinics in Buffalo Schools, 21 Community Schools that are operational and vibrant after-school and on Saturdays. Parents and students are utilizing the resources offered in both after school and on Saturdays. I have observed great interaction among teachers, students, parents and administrators in the two schools that I have visited over the course of February and March. The district has garnered support from partnership and collaboration developments with business and industry, college and university, pre-college programs (Liberty Partnerships, Up-Ward Bound, STEP- Science, technology and Enrichment), Say Yes and so on. I believe that the superintendent seems to have respect for Buffalo Teachers, Parents and students. Moreover, graduation rates have increased from 47% in 2011 to 67% in 2018. Naturally that 67% is unacceptable as I believe the districts graduation rate should be minimum 80%. Consequently, the Buffalo school board should review the significant strides made under the superintendent’s tenure and consider extending his contract as there is still work to be accomplished.”
Patricia Elliott - East District candidate
"The Buffalo School Board should make sure that resources are allocated equitably as opposed to equally. Student populations that have more needs should get the resources to meet those needs.
As a parent leader of the school district, I filed a complaint with the office of civil rights and one of the recommendations that was made to resolve the civil rights violations was to increase teacher diversity in our schools. As a board member, I would work to ensure that the district implements the recommendations and aggressively pursue and enforce teacher diversity as well as culturally responsive teaching in our schools.
As a member of the District Parent Coordinating Council, we fought for modifications to the district code of conduct that led to suspensions being reduced by over 25% over the last 10 years and the district adopting restorative justice practices. As an elected school board member I will continue to push for effective implementation of restorative practices and advocate for the total elimination of out of school suspensions in the same way that Miami Dade Schools did. In 2015 they had over 20,000 out of school suspensions and in 2016 they had none.
I believe that Dr. Cash has been doing a phenomenal job as the Superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools. So much progress has been made that before him had not even been considered a REAL possibility until he came. We now have increased graduation rates, community schools, an increase of schools in good standing, fewer receivership schools, ELA and Math scores have gone up since he has come and homeroom parents. I feel that the Buffalo Board of Education should do everything possible to make Dr. Cash an offer to stay and continue to bring growth and collaboration to our district."