Artvoice street correspondent Peter Reese sends us this dispatch from last night’s Buffalo School Board Candidates Night at the Polish Cadets Hall:
The Forest District Civic Association (FDCA) held a Buffalo School Board Candidates Night on Tuesday, at the Polish Cadets Hall at Grant and Amherst. Candidates for the North and West District seats were invited. In attendance were School Board President Ralph Hernandez (West), Larry Scott (North), and Dr. Patricia Devis (North). Candidates Philip Lomax (West) and Jason McCarthy (North) were noticeably absent. Attorney and campaign manager Ed Betz attempted to represent McCarthy, but, in what may have been the highlight of the evening, was asked to remove himself by what was essentially the unanimous wishes of all assembled.
The president of the FDCA, Larry Patti, served as the moderator with Mike Desmond of WNED Radio and Sam Radford of the Parents Council serving as the panel of questioners. During the course of the evening, numerous audience questions were also asked by Patti and FDCA secretary Jim Lee.
Questions ranged from increasing parent involvement, fiscal concerns, and school board election voter turnouts to innovative new teaching methods, rating the performance of Superintendent James A. Williams, and the personal qualifications of the candidates. I wanted to know the identity of the entity Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA), which has been spending piles of money mailing flyers supporting candidates McCarthy and Lomax, as well as Vivian Evans and Kinzer Pointer. None of the candidates present had any idea what or who ERNA is or how they were funding and otherwise supporting the campaigns of their opponents. Devis reminded the assembly of the huge expenditures made in last year’s race by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and at-large school board member Christopher Jacobs. She noted that the funding behind ERNA “smells like the same money to me.”
If you paid attention, you came away with the impression that all three candidates present were thoughtful, qualified, and sincerely motivated. It was also unmistakable that the absent ERNA duo, McCarthy and Lomax, didn’t care enough about the Buffalo schools to show up. Maybe they’re counting on their big money media campaigns to carry them to anonymous victory. In any event, their absence left a million questions unanswered and a bad taste in the mouths of the attendees.