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Elia appointment draws praise from local stakeholders

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Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore and school board member Carl Paladino don't always agree on very much, but both see new State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia as a positive sign of change in the Board of Regents. The new commissioner is a Lewiston native and a graduate of local colleges and universities who began her teaching career in the Sweet Home District. She was bounced out of a massive Florida school system after a decade as superintendent.

Paladino says he believes Elia was picked because she pushes change and because she knows New York State.

"Apparently, [Regents Chancellor] Merryl Tisch and the Regents felt that it's appropriate to get somebody here who has been in New York before and that's what this lady is. I'm hoping she will be good with us," Paladino said Tuesday.

Rumore says Elia, as a former teacher, will understand some of the issues like class size and the problems of students who don't have English as their primary language, a long-term problem in Florida and a serious problem in Buffalo schools.

Elia started out as a local classroom teacher and worked her way up. Rumore says that means she understands some of the basic ways to help kids learn and move upward in school.

"That means smaller class sizes and support services for the family so we can identify them as early as possible. If she'll just do those things, concentrate on early grade intervention, making sure they graduate from elementary school ready for high school and then, also, talk about teaching and learning conditions under which our kids learn and our teachers teach, then everything will be great," Rumore said.

Paladino says Elia has some of the characteristics he and his allies on the majority side of the school board are looking for in a new schools superintendent, including experience in actually running a vast schools system.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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