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Grand Island School Board candidates

Seven people are seeking three seats on the Grand Island School Board. They are: Myrna F. Blair; Brian Chapin; Emily L. Ciraolo; Joan A. Droit; Richard J. Little Jr.; Phyllis Stallard; and Takayuki (Tak) Nobumoto.

All were invited to tell distrct residents why they are worthy of their vote. Three of the candidates responded.


Follow last year's election. Continue to elect members with Common Sense to the Grand Island Board of Education. 

That includes me.

I plan to fill a void. The board lacks communication and transparency. I observed, listened and voiced my concerns at board meetings. I received opinions rather than factual answers. The superintendent and some board members came across defensive and rude.

That's not good enough for me.

A school board's primary function is to provide a system of checks and balances to ensure funds are spent to benefit the majority of students in the most effective ways - and do so with respect to taxpayers. That requires sound research.

The board should not alienate the public. It should listen to residents, and gather information and facts to support their decisions. That can be done through online surveys, for example. Residents deserve to voice their opinions, ask questions and receive answers without the fear of backlash or rude responses. Residents deserve to know the facts.

Look at the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Residents, including taxpayers, teachers, parents and students, expressed concerns. Now is not the time to implement new, costly programs. We are in the midst of a financial crisis like many other districts around the state.

The superintendent and board ignored community concerns. They reiterate that the IB program will provide critical thinking skills that Advanced Placement (AP) classes do not. They remind residents to ask questions, learn the facts and to ignore gossip.

I listened.

I asked a simple question. How much?

The superintendent failed to provide me and taxpayers with a comprehensive IB budget breakdown. Costs, such as teacher training, are hidden deep within the budget. According to the superintendent, there are no costs to train teachers contradictory to research I've done and, in fact, what one board member told me. That board member has repeatedly expressed concerns and not received answers. Read carefully: A board member is not privy to that information.

The board should act as the front lines of communication to residents. Instead, they are not even provided with the necessary tools to effectively carry out their responsibilities.

That's not good enough for me.

I'm poised and committed. I'm proud of my hometown. I'm not afraid to ask questions or challenge decisions. I set goals and achieve them. I lead - not follow. My resume proves that. Read it online at

Vote for me. The answers "because I can" or "people wanted it" aren't answers. They're opinions. They aren't good enough for me, and they shouldn't be good enough for you. Vote for Common Sense.



Joan A. Droit, a candidate for one of three seats on the Grand Island Board, was born, raised, and educated in the city of Buffalo.  She is a graduate of P.S. 78 and Kensington High School.  She earned both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science degrees at Buffalo State College.  She has completed additional graduate work at the University at Buffalo, Canisius College and Niagara University. 

Miss Droit has taught elementary school, high school English and social studies.  She retired after forty years in the Grand Island School District.  She also taught for two summers in Niagara Falls, worked for two years as part of the UAW/GM Quality Educators Program at Powertrain.  She was part of the Western New York Writers Program at Canisius College, and taught in the summer Young Writers Camp program.  Additionally she is trained as a BBB Consumer Advocate.

Miss Droit leads a weekly Book Discussion Group at the Island Golden Age Center.  She is on the executive board of the Miracle League of GI/WNY, a director of the Peace Education Fund, a member and past president of the Grand Island Historical Society, a member of Zonta, and a parishioner of St. Stephen’s Church.

Miss Droit states that she has had a lifelong commitment to children and young adults. Her reasons for seeking a seat on the Board of Education for Grand Island began after she attended board meetings over the past two years seeking information.  Her experiences at the School Board meetings left her feeling that the lack of civility and candor by the Board disenfranchised the public and discouraged the public from active participation in the business of their schools.  She feels that requiring American Government students to monitor these meetings is ineffective and a misrepresentation of what should be the American philosophy of participatory government.

Miss Droit states that the students of Grand Island respond well to the district’s high academic standards and perform beautifully in the areas of the arts and athletics.  She is eager to raise the standards for all students and to find additional opportunities for them to participate in internships and service events.


As an 18-year resident of the Town of Grand Island I have found that the GI school system has proven to be an excellent investment.  Many transplants like me have been attracted to this town and have grown deep roots in the community. Many lifelong Grand Islanders would agree that we have a great school system. Equally important are the next generation of residents that we need to continue to attract in order to secure a bright future for the place that we call home. One common thread with all residents is the recognition that Grand Island enjoys a top-notched school system that values academic excellence, fine arts, athletic programs and much more.  The excellent reputation of the school system is earned by years of support from the residents, outstanding work by educators and administrators, the involvement of parents and  hard work by children.

The primary reason I am running for the privilege of representing the residents of Grand Island on the School Board is to engage in the difficult decisions that will be facing this district as the fiscal forecast in the upcoming years looks dismal. During times of reduced state education funding and ever present state mandates, it is the community’s responsibility to provide the vision for education, both in the present day as well as the future. The community includes the residents, business owners, children, educators, administration and others. I believe that by engaging all of the stakeholders in the community we can begin to have meaningful dialogue that will lead to collaboration, constructive debate, new and innovative ideas and creative solutions that will empower all in the community to become owners and partners in the educational mission of our school system.

 I am running for the Grand Island School Board with the following principles:

-- Promote accountability and transparency for and from all stakeholders

-- Engage the community by listening and responding to fellow residents

-- Strive to deliver appropriate programs for all children

-- Ask questions, research and follow-up

-- Practice fiscal responsibility and promote living within our means

By remaining true to these core principles, I will help find ways to lead our school district by injecting Common Sense into the School Board. 

I believe we can promote accountability and transparency by engaging key stakeholders and ensuring that debate about issues and concerns are held. We can create accommodating environments for School Board and information meetings that encourage greater participation. We can encourage all groups, be they teachers, clubs, athletic teams, residents, PTA, concerned residents, etc. to participate in meetings and provide their unique perspective and aid in making decisions with critical information and full disclosure of relevant facts and opinions. 

I believe we can make it easier for residents to pose their questions and concerns to the administration and School Board. One method can be to use technologies implemented by other school districts such as email, web-based forums and social media to facilitate the electronic dialogue that many residents already use on a daily basis.

One concern that I share with many residents is related to the delivery of appropriate programs for all children. This concern revolves around focusing  the priorities to teach the fundamentals, ensuring that children are taught at their level and providing the core values of respect and responsibility.  I believe we need to focus on the basics while assisting those that need extra help. Advance programs should be offered based on available resources and community needs and requirements. Balancing what the community can afford with the current needs and the impact to the future of the educational programs will require School Board, school administration, educators and community engagement.

Striking the balance between what we want and what we can afford is the biggest challenge confronting the school district.  It is important for the community as a whole to understand the different perspectives of the diverse demographics that support our school system.  As such, there is not a clear distinction between supporting the children and supporting the tax payer.  In fact, these two groups are so closely tied, that the choice must to be balanced to meet somewhere in the middle.  It is the community’s obligation to provide an educational system for its residents.  In many ways, this is an investment that the residents make into the future of this town.  Having moved into the Western New York region, relocating specifically to Grand Island was primarily motivated by the outstanding reputation of the school system. This was the town that I wanted to raise my children in and provide them with an excellent education. The Grand Island schools have lived up to the promise of delivering a first class education for my three children. My children have learned much, and gained much from the superb educators in basic and advance subject areas. They have all enjoyed participating in the areas of the music and sports. It should be noted that the Grand Island Music Department, perennially, achieves the highest scores in many music competitions. This year is no exception. 

I will use my many years of experience in the health care industry, to bring a pragmatic and frank voice to the School Board.  Health care shares many commonalities with education.  Both deliver critical services to communities. Both have aging infrastructure that require updating and maintenance.  Both are experiencing cuts in state aid. Both are highly regulated with state mandates. Both are constantly debated as a large component of a typical household budget. Yet both are critical to have and both serve to meet a fundamental societal need.

In order to preserve the excellence our school system has earned we must all work together to compromise, collaborate, communicate and innovate to secure the bright future that Grand Island needs in its school system. 

I ask all residents to vote for me and the other two candidates that have Common Sense in order to lead the school district to a bright future.

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |