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POLITICS AND POLICY

An investigation of Lackawanna School Superintendent Monica Kole is based on unreleased allegations. One board member says the investigation resembles a "kangaroo court." The School Board has retained the services of John M. Curran for the investigation at $250 an hour. Welcome to Lackawanna.

We don't know why the board decided to act, or what matters it is investigating. But given the bare-knuckled brand of politics that's practiced in that city, the board should consider itself under as much scrutiny as the superintendent.

Consequently, the board should feel a sense of urgency to wrap this probe up as soon as possible so it can either take the appropriate disciplinary action, or admit there was no substance and let Kole get about her business.

Regardless of the outcome, residents should hold the board accountable if this is just one more example of politics over policy. Even without knowing the facts behind the investigation, there is reason to be dubious.

Kole, who was hired last June, has made a point of trying to do away with nepotism. That, apparently, did not add to her popularity with the board. She publicly questioned board members, who filled job openings with their own nominees instead of the ones Kole recommended. She has criticized a system rife with politics and has advocated, instead, more accountability and investment in the schools. She has proposed a wiring upgrade, which will cost up to $1.5 million, to enter the technology age. Among her other proposals are a return to team teaching and some assignment of teachers to two years with the same students.

Some have pointed to Kole's lack of people skills, but they have acknowledged her efforts on behalf of the students. Certainly, personality should not be a priority consideration if she can raise the system's abysmal state Education Department ranking - 96th out of 98 Western New York school districts.

Kole seems to have a vision for the school district, but it's not a vision backed by a majority of the School Board.

The question is whether politics continues to enter the picture to the detriment of the students. Lackawanna residents deserve a quick answer.

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