Niagara Gazette

Columns

May 17, 2013

HAMILTON: Falls 'dumbs down' school board petitions

Niagara Gazette — I guess that after 20 or more years, if you cannot teach your own favorite board members how to do something as simple as getting 100 of their own friends and neighbors to properly sign their petitions, then the next best thing to do is to dumb down those petitions.

Sad but true, the Niagara Falls Board of Education, ranked the fifth worst education system in Western New York, according to Business First, is indeed dumbing down its nominating petitions. Perhaps it is time for them to adjust their motto from, “Learning For All ... Whatever It Takes,“ to “Re-election for Us … Whatever it Takes.”

When Business First magazine rated our system at 92 of the 97 school districts in Western New York with high schools, superintendent Cynthia Bianco said that it was “like comparing apples to oranges.”

Now, after the last meeting, I am not sure if she meant that for the students or for the board members.

I think that school board candidates, as well as candidates for any office, should be required to personally walk the sidewalks and get signatures from a demographic cross section of the people that they seek to represent. In an at-large election like school board, those signatures should be in some systemic order according to neighborhoods and streets to ensure that they did so.

But that will not likely be the case. After I challenged some recently submitted school board petitions, the board’s attorney announced that they are going to simplifying the new petitions. To me, it is obviously so that the people who run the system can understand how to do something that is less taxing on them than it is for the social studies students who go to city council meetings to get their councilmen signatures to prove that they attended that meeting.

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