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SCHOOL CHIEF'S COMMITMENT
GOES WELL BEYOND FULL TIME

Running a small city school district with 1,200 employees, 8,850 students and 13 school buildings in an economically depressed community would seem more than enough of a full-time job for anyone.

Not for School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto, who has held the superintendent's post in Niagara Falls for 13 years.

Granto says he works 12-hour days, on average, but still finds time to sit on public boards and join private organizations:

* Granto is the newest member of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

* He recently left the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency board to join the NFTA board, but not before working to get Angelo Massaro, Niagara Falls School District attorney, an IDA board seat.

* He has been on the Niagara County Community College board of trustees, and belonged to the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club and the United Way of Niagara. He has served on the Niagara Falls Planning Board and now sits on the Mount St. Mary's Hospital board.

The outside work helps strengthen his school district, Granto maintains. It also built his influence and financial in sight, and made him one of the most powerful and wealthiest citizens in his native city.

You'll get no argument from Mayor Vince V. Anello, who has worked with Granto on a number issues and described him as "strong in his convictions."

Even in normally combative Niagara Falls, officials are unwilling to criticize Granto in public. Privately, some say he isn't shy about pushing his arguments by implying that his district's 1,200 employees could be an obstacle to political careers. Whether Granto can muster his employees as a voting bloc or not, few look to test him.

"From his perspective, there are no public interests in Niagara County that shouldn't be subject to the interests of Niagara Falls School District," said a local official who has watched Granto negotiate. "What impact has the casino had on his district that's worth $700,000 a year? That money's supposed to be for development. But God help the person who stands between Granto and the money."

Granto, 62, said he has joined boards when he believes it can help the school district. If he is zealous, he also is effective, several in local government and the school district said.

"If it wasn't for him, I don't think Niagara Middle School would have been built," said Joseph Catalano, president of the Niagara Falls teachers union. "The new high school wouldn't have been built, and the new Niagara Street Elementary School would never be built (starting this summer). When you think of what he's done, he'll have built three new schools and replaced every heating system, window, door and roof on every single school building at huge savings, and without a tax increase, for 13 years.

Granto said he joined the NFTA because it owns the Niagara Falls International Airport.

If the airport is upgraded, he said, "it will help bring in development and expand the tax base. When the tax base goes up, so do our school revenues."

As for three years on the IDA, "I (joined) because sometimes they would exempt (a new business) from taxes, and that included school taxes. That cost us money, and we weren't even consulted about it. So I wanted to make sure public school districts had a voice on it."

He said he would not hesitate to vote against something that hurt the school district, or in favor of something that helped.

Granto also said he more than doubles his $123,649 district salary by traveling the country as a consultant. He said his talks focus on how to use the lease-back financing process the district used to pay for the now 5-year-old high school, and "on subjects like leadership, needs assessment and things like that."

He also said he's committed to the city's schools.

"I believe the one chance this town has is through education," he said.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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