The Buffalo School Board approved a $4.6 million contract with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Wednesday that two members branded discriminatory.
Under the contract, bus passes issued to public high school students must be used by 4:15 p.m., but public elementary and private and parochial students can use their passes until 6 p.m. The board divided 6 to 2, with Bettye Blackman of the Ferry District District and Mozella Richardson of the Central District dissenting.
William A. Goldbach, assistant superintendent for transportation services, said the restriction on public secondary students results from complaints by security officers for schools and downtown stores that some high school students are causing problems after school.
He said special NFTA passes are available to public high school students involved in school activities after 4:15 p.m.
"It's discriminatory against the public schools," Mrs. Blackman said.
"Usually on this board, we discriminate against parochial schools," said James W. Comerford Jr. of the Park District, whose children attend parochial schools.
Mrs. Blackman and Mrs. Richardson also challenged an NFTA practice of fining students $20 if they use their passes for travel anywhere but in the direction of their homes.
There is no appeal procedure for students and their parents are usually on tight incomes, Mrs. Richardson said.
At-large member David B. Kelly, warning of the possibility of another NFTA shutdown such as the one early this year, urged the board to consider contracting for alternate transportation.
In an ongoing dispute about the unfilled position of associate superintendent for finance, Comerford and Oscar Smukler of the North District attacked board President Judith Fisher for suggesting the board might be trying to tailor specifications to fit particular candidates.
"I have absolutely no one in mind," Smukler said. "Maybe you do."
Both Smukler and Comerford suggested previously that former board members met privately with then-School Superintendent Eugene T. Reville to select architects and accountants. Reville died last March.
"I trust the superintendent will see fit to pick the person best qualified," said Smukler, pledging to support the choice of Superintendent Albert Thompson unless he is "way off base."
Comerford and Smukler support an effort to revise the job hierarchy to include a chief district business official as an alternative to associate superintendent for finance.
"I do not trust an educator to run the finances of this corporation," Comerford said.
Comerford denied a Buffalo News article Dec. 4 that quoted two board sources as saying Comerford warned Thompson to nominate Joseph Gentile, assistant superintendent for secondary schools, as associate superintendent for instructional services.
According to the sources, who say they separately obtained the information from Thompson, Comerford told Thompson that former Lackawanna Mayor Mark Balen, now Burgard High School principal, would be elected if Thompson fails to back Gentile.
Thompson's choice is Mary Elizabeth Dougherty, now acting superintendent, who could muster only four of the necessary five votes last August.