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Buffalo School Board starts interviews for vacant seat

WBFO's Mike Desmond

The vacant seat on the Buffalo School Board is apparently very attractive to residents of South Buffalo. The board is winnowing through 15 candidates for the Park District seat vacated by Carl Paladino when State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia removed him.

The Board kicked off the process Wednesday night with the interviews of five candidates. Two more nights of interviews are ahead, with the goal of filling the seat at a meeting next Wednesday. State law allows the seat to be filled by appointment until the next election.

Board Member Sharon Belton Cottman is now Vice President of Executive Affairs for the Board, but was once one of eight applicants for a vacant seat, giving her perspective on the process. Belton Cottman said she has some ground rules.

"I'm looking to be unbiased and to see what each candidate brings to the table," Belton Cottman said. "As far as what we need, we need someone who is articulate and can read, that would help, and who's willing to devote 20 hours, minimally, to this position."

Other Board members said much the same, although some have particular topics in mind. Central District Representative Paulette Woods wanted someone with the financial background to deal with the district's troubled finances.

"Really does put the children first," Woods said. "It would be nice if they have some kind of educational background and I'd really like some more financial partners who could help me turn around some of the problems in the district. We are facing a deficit. I think we need to take strident measures to fix it and I want a commitment to the New Education Bargain."

"What I'm mostly concerned about this coming school year is an attendance initiative," said At-Large Member Patty Pierce. "So I'm hoping that our next candidate will feel the way that I feel about making sure that we do something about our attendance rate."

West District Representative Jennifer Mecozzi said she is looking for someone whose interest is the kids.

"I'm looking for someone who is going to come onto this board with a true genuine interest of the Buffalo school's children and having like a quality education for everybody," Mecozzi said. "No more drama. That's exactly what I'm looking for."

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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