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Should Buffalo move its school board elections to November?

Interest in moving the Buffalo School Board elections to November is suddenly heating up, as the New York State Legislature session enters its final weeks.

Buffalo Common Councilmember Joseph Golombek has pushed for the shift from May to November for years - and suddenly there is interest again in this community. The Common Council passed a Home Rule Message Tuesday that asks Albany for the bills in both houses to be approved.

The current election schedule calls for all nine school board members to be on the ballot in May, something which only happens every 15 years and is giving rise to a lot of backroom activity by activists, potential candidates and donors. Golombek says the usual complaint is that a November ballot would make the school election political.

"Really? They've been politicized all along," Golombek said. "I've never missed a school board election. I don't know if it's because I'm an elected official or because I care wbout my community or what, but I've never missed a school board election and they know that I'm a prime voter when it comes to things like that, so I've gotten leters from the BTF, from NYSEG, from the Partnership, from the left, from the right. And the reality is that, since we've had these elections in May, the School Board's not getting any better, unfortunately, and I think that this is worth taking a shot at getting them to move to November."

Some of the area's most prominent clergy members are pushing to persuade Albany to change the election day.

State Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) said she does not know if the legislation can be pried out of the system and put on the floor for a vote by the end of this session, but she said she is trying and favors a November vote. She said more people need to be at the polls deciding who sits on the school board.

"We do need to have an election process that includes more of the electorate," she said. "Getting petitions done in March and getting on the ballot for a May election only bodes well for people who either have a special interest or a special ability to win elections."

Common Council President Pridgen also backs the change, saying it is crucial to the future of city residents and the city.

"At the end of the day, there is probably not an election more important, local election more important than the School Board. It is more important than who you elect as your councilman. It is more important than who you elect as your county legislator and who you elect as your mayor," Pridgen said. "Because at the end of the day, if we are not educating our children properly, if we do not have people on the School Board that understand the importance of working together to provide the best education possible for our children, you can build this city up all you want to, but the people who will work in this city will not by enlarge be the ones who graduated from our school system, if we don't elect the right people who will then hire the right people so that our children have half a chance."

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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