Niagara Gazette

March 11, 2014

Polka's Board of Regents bid is denied

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Former Lewiston-Porter School District Superintendent Dr. Walter Polka isn't heading to the New York State Board of Regents, much to the chagrin of two state lawmakers representing Niagara County who supported his candidacy.

As reported by the Associated Press, the state Legislature on Tuesday voted to accept Josephine Victoria Finn, a Monticello village justice and former community college associate professor, as the replacement for Board of Regent member James Jackson who withdrew his bid for re-election. 

According to the AP, the joint Legislature overwhelmingly supported Finn, who needed a majority vote of 107 from both the Assembly and the Senate. The Assembly Democrats typically control the vote but because of vacant seats only had 99 votes.

At-large members Wade Norwood and James Cottrell, who represent the entire state, and Christine Cea, who represents Staten Island, were re-elected, the AP reported. 

Polka was recommended for the state education policy-setting Board of Regents by state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, and state Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston. The board of regents has come under fire from parents, educators and lawmakers for the poor rollout of the Common Core, a new tougher testing standard.

On Tuesday, Maziarz and Ceretto said Assembly Democrats "turned their backs" on parents, teachers and education advocates "who have been demanding better for our students." They called it an "privilege" to nominate Polka for a board position, calling him a "respected leader and reformer in the field of public education who would have been very attentive to the needs of today's students."

"For all of their lofty rhetoric about being progressive, the majority of Assembly Democrats gave New York a big serving of the failed status quo," Maziarz and Ceretto said in a joint statement released from their offices. "They robbed the public of our only opportunity to hold the Board of Regents accountable.

"The incumbent Regents have failed the parents and students of New York," they added. "They have not exercised proper control over the State Education Department, Commissioner King, and the roll out and implementation of Common Core."