This week, the Buffalo School Board will make an important decision about how to fill a vacancy left by at large member Chris Jacobs.
Technically, voters don't get a voice in how the seat should be filled. But if you read to the end of this post (or even scroll down to it), you can make your voice heard. So bear with me while I run through the basics of this issue -- along with some inside info you may not be aware of.
Under state law, the board can go about filling the seat however it wants to, as long as it's by a majority board vote.
Here's the nutshell version: In the past, the board has appointed one of its district members to the at large vacancy. Two board members, Lou Petrucci and Mary Ruth Kapsiak, have said they want the seat. They argue that, given the enormity of issues facing the board, someone with more experience should get the seat.
Another argument involves the fact that the board has one month to fill the seat. Some people believe that may not be enough time to interview all those who are interested.
If the board moves Petrucci or Kapsiak into the at large seat, that would create a vacancy in either the Park District (South Buffalo) or Central District. The board would most likely then fill that district vacancy by asking for resumes of people living in that district who want the seat and interviewing those interested.
At least three board members (plus Jacobs, who won't be voting on this issue) have said they think the process should be opened up so that anybody in the city can apply for the at large position -- Jacobs was elected by voters across the city, some point out. And if sitting board members want to apply, they're welcome to -- along with everyone else. Petrucci and Kapsiak should be able to make the case for why they deserve the seat, some say.
Given all the interest in the city's schools, the board is likely to get a strong field of applicants from across Buffalo, some believe.
If the board opens up the process to anyone in the city, it's hard to predict who might get the seat.
If the board appoints Petrucci, there are signals that a clear favorite has already emerged to fill the Park District seat that would be vacated.
For months, there's been one name in particular I've heard being floated as the most likely to join the School Board next: Jack Coyle.
It should. Coyle was on the board for 12 years (including a couple as president), through 2007, when he decided not to seek re-election.
Over the summer, when there was talk that Board President Lou Petrucci had his eye on a seat on the Common Council (something Petrucci vehemently denied when I asked him about it), Coyle's name was already swirling as the preferred candidate to take Petrucci's seat on the board representing South Buffalo.
And now that Petrucci has expressed interest in the at large vacancy created by Chris Jacobs' resignation, Coyle's name is circulating again.
Coyle says he hasn't made up his mind, but is considering seeking the board seat, if Petrucci gets the at large spot and that opens up the Park District seat. After a four-year break, he'd be ready to get back on the board, he said.
"I think they have some really critical decisions to make, and I would love to be involved," Coyle said.
But, he says, if he has to compete against Petrucci for the at large seat, he will opt out.
Coyle, whose wife is a retired teacher, says he was often at odds with BTF President Phil Rumore. Coyle is also not shy about his allegiances on the board: He has for years been close friends with Florence Johnson, he said. In fact, were Johnson not on the board, Coyle would likely not consider putting his hat in the ring, he said.
So there you have it.
Now, how do you think the board should go about filling its at large vacancy?
Here's your chance to weigh in:
- Mary Pasciak