Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 15, 2013

Falls school board candidates spar over testing, taxes and residency requirements

Niagara Gazette — The discussion was wide ranging, but the controversies were few in a public forum for the six candidates running for two seats on the Niagara Falls Board of Education.

About 40 people listened, in the auditorium of the Falls Public Library on Tuesday night, as the candidates talked about everything from their hobbies to charter schools and how they felt about the school district’s bottom-of-the-barrel ranking by a local business publication.

Four newcomers to school board politics are seeking to unseat board veterans the Rev. Kevin Dobbs and businessman Don King.

Former city councilman Michael Gawel fired the first shot of the night by saying he was running for the board because, “We need to change the way we’re doing things. It’s not working.”

Gawel also jumped on a question from the forum moderator when he asked each candidate, “How many Niagara Falls School District employees are you related to?”

“I have no family members working for the board of education,” Gawel said. “No kids, no aunts or uncles, no cousins.”

Candidate Herbert Lewis also said he had no immediate or extended family on the school district payroll. 

“I will have no strings attached,” Lewis said. “And no nepotism.”

King said he believed “a cousin” of his wife was a district teacher, while challenger Anthony Paretta admitted his sister was a teacher’s assistant. Candidate Ronald Barstys said his wife was a teacher in the district.

“Just because you have a relative (working) in the district, it doesn’t mean what you think it means,” Baestys added. 

Dobbs, who had served 16 years as a school board member, told the crowd he has three daughters employed by the district. Two are teachers and one is a teacher’s aide.

“I’m very proud of my daughter’s (work),” Dobbs said. “I’m very proud of the fact I have children (working) in the district.”

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