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The one at-large candidate we know of -- and those the board won't reveal

School Board President Lou Petrucci has decided to take a run for the at-large vacancy left by Chris Jacobs.

Remember, last week, neither Petrucci nor Mary Ruth Kapsiak could nail down five votes for the board to appoint them to the at-large seat. (Both Petrucci and Kapsiak represent a particular area of the city; district seats like theirs carry a three-year term, as opposed to the five-year at-large term.)

So the board -- which really had no other choice -- decided to open up the process and accept resumes from anyone in the city who's interested in the city. Initially, Petrucci said he wasn't sure whether he'd throw his hat in the ring. (Kapsiak immediately said she would not interview for the seat, saying it wouldn't be fair to the other candidates, given her years of experience and knowledge.)

This week, though, Petrucci told me he'd made up his mind. He will be a candidate, he said. (Although as of Wednesday night, he had not yet submitted his resume.)

PetrucciThis is going to put Petrucci in an interesting situation. We already know that initially, he couldn't get five votes from fellow board members to get appointed to the seat. Now he's going to compete against an unknown number of other people in the city in public interviews.

If the board picks anyone besides Petrucci, that would indicate that the board thinks its own president is not the best-qualified person for the at-large seat. Not exactly a vote of confidence. Seems like that might be a little difficult for him to recover from.

And if the board picks Petrucci, that is likely to spark speculation among some -- I've already heard rumblings of it -- that the board has already decided to appoint him, and that the whole interview process is a sham, set up just to make it appear as though there was a legitimate process.

Well, at any rate, we now know of one candidate interested in the seat.

Who else has applied?

We don't know.

The board has decided not to release the names until some time after the 4 p.m. Friday deadline.

Once someone submits a letter of intent to the district, it becomes a matter of public record, according to Bob Freeman, executive director of the state's Committee on Open Government.

And board members don't seem to disagree that those names are a matter of public record.

They just don't want to release them right now.

Why?

"District policy is to treat everyone the same," Petrucci said. "The point is to wait and release them all at the same time."

He says the district will wait until it vets all the candidate names -- to make sure they all meet the eligibility requirements and have submitted complete applications -- before releasing any of the names. So realistically, we probably won't know until Monday who the candidates are.

John Licata argues that it could have a chilling effect for the names to be released prior to the deadline. If someone with connections to a board member is in the mix, then other people might assume that person will get the seat and will then decide not to pursue it themselves, he said.

He asked me what good would be served by releasing the names.

Well, transparency might be a good place to start.

The district has made strides in making things more transparent in the past few months. That doesn't mean things are as good as they need to get.

It's interesting that the default thinking on the board seems to be that information should be withheld unless a case is made to release it.

If information is a matter of public record, does there need to be a reason to make it available to the public?

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    [email protected]

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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