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All Buffalo School Board members on Tuesday's ballot

Mike Desmond
WBFO News File Photo

All nine members of the Buffalo School Board are on the ballot Tuesday, four of them without opponents. It happens only every 15 years.
District board members serve three-year terms, while at-large members serve five-year terms. That means only every 15 years are they all on the ballot, together.

Four of the incumbents don't have any opposition for re-election and two other districts have head-to-head races. Where it's wild is for the at-large seats, with eight candidates for those three seats.

Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold is not running again. Seals Nevergold said parents with children in school have a perspective, Buffalo Public students or not.

"We talk about diversity and how important that is and what a contributory factor that is to any field of endeavor," she said, "and so, even looking at the board, I would say that those individuals who have children in charter schools or in private schools bring a certain perspective that could be valuable."

As usual, the Buffalo Teachers Federation is deeply involved and makes no secret of that. BTF President Phil Rumore said the union wants people with experience working with kids.

"We're pushing hard for those candidates that we have endorsed, obviously," Rumore said. "These are people that have committed to work with each other and actually have a depth of experience in working in the community and working with kids - and if you're going to be on the School Board, that's more important than anything."

A key issue for the new board, when it takes office July 1, is the future of Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash. His final contract year starts after the summer break. The new board will have to decide if it wants to continue on the path set up by Cash and his Education Bargain.

"What's at stake is continuing the excellent work that we have been doing as a board in the last year," said Board Member Hope Jay, who is running unopposed, "particularly, I think we've coalesced and we've come together and we've been able to work together as a unified team and I think that it's important for us to keep moving forward."

The board will meet on Wednesday, working on the budget and its annual evaluation of the superintendent's performance.

The new board will also have to deal with the budget approved by the current board. That is a little up in the air, with some board members refusing to approve the latest budget version, claiming a lack of equity in the way money is being spent. Some members want major changes to deal with needs in the school buildings.

"The person who ends up on the board will determine how close to $1 billion is spent every year, for between 1-5 years and that's huge," said unopposed incumbent Board Member Sharon Belton-Cottman. "As far as the true stake is, the message that has to be sent to the legislators, to the community, that the citizens of Buffalo are serious about their children and that's why they came out to vote."

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.