Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 15, 2013

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


Niagara Gazette — On the issue of the first proposed increase in school taxes in 19 years, all the candidates except Lewis said they supported the tax hike. 

The issue of requiring district employees to live in the Falls was a little more divisive. Paretto, Dobbs, Gawel, King and Lewis all supported the requirement.

Barstys said he supported requiring new employees to live in the district, but suggested that after 10 years of employment they be allowed to move outside the city.

The candidates divided deeply over school district rankings, published every year by a local business newspaper. The rankings are based largely on tests scores and place the Falls 92nd out of 97 local school districts.

“I think we should be concerned,” Dobbs said. “But the rankings aren’t fair rankings.”

Dobbs complained the rankings compare “apples to oranges” saying a “poor” district like the Falls is stacked up against more “affluent” districts.

Gawel shot back, “This is why I’m running (for the school board). All I hear is excuses (for underperforming schools).”

Barstys, an administrator in the North Tonawanda School District, agreed with Dobbs. He said he thought the rankings were flawed.

“These are not excuses,” Barstys said. “(The factors affecting test scores) are facts.”

Paretto jumped on the use of standardized tests for students and the implementation of standardized teacher evaluations. He opposes both.

“(Teacher assessments are) hammering people who have a right to make a living,” Paretto said. “It’s a bogus test. A teacher has so much to worry about, he shouldn’t have to worry about being in the unemployment line.”

All the candidates also said they opposed the expansion of charter schools in the district.

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