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A strong choice ; Taylor gives East District residents an experienced hand on School Board

Congratulations go to East District residents who recently had the good fortune to replace an absentee School Board member with someone who not only actually lives in the district but who will bring with her decades of educational experience at the administrative level.

There are plenty of handshakes to offer Rosalyn L. Taylor, and she deserves every one, but save some good wishes for residents who essentially went months without representation when Vivian O. Evans took a job in Maryland. She kept the seat until resigning under pressure a few weeks ago.

Taylor emerged from six qualified candidates, with the toughest competition coming from Theresa A. Harris-Tigg, who barely lost to Evans in last year's elections. But Harris-Tigg, a former Buffalo public school teacher and current Buffalo State College professor whom The News supported during the race, also had a handshake for her friend, Taylor. And one can see why.

Taylor, a retired administrator with 37 years of service in the Buffalo Public Schools, has the type of credentials that the School Board needs as it grapples with a dismal 50 percent graduation rate, a top priority for her. She oversaw school closings and guided reconstruction efforts, bringing parents the bad news about school closings in a manner that impressed new colleague Christopher Jacobs.

And she brings charter school experience as a board member of the Oracle Charter School. She is seeking advice from the district's general council on whether she can hold both seats, adding she'll step down from Oracle's board if necessary. She understands the benefits of charter schools and, like many, is concerned about the funding process and how that affects traditional public schools.

Moreover, Taylor has the educational career chops to stand toe-to-toe with Superintendent James A. Williams. The two spent only about a year under the same jurisdictional roof, so to speak, and it apparently wasn't always a harmonious relationship. But Taylor diplomatically calls it, "satisfactory." Williams told The News, "I had a very good relationship with her."

Fine.

Ultimately, East District residents were offered solid choices to fill a vacant seat, but that fact does not let the district off the hook for attempting to muck up what should always be a public process.

Ironically, board President Ralph R. Hernandez happened to mention during a committee meeting that he believed interviews for the prospective new member should be conducted in public. But it was the district's chief of staff, James M. Kane, who hesitated on the weak theory that candidate interviews in the district had always been conducted behind closed doors.

The public was eventually invited to watch the not-so-secret candidate interviews but, as this page has suggested, district officials might want to check with Robert Freeman, the state's expert on New York's sunshine laws, when questions arise. Meantime, the School Board and district should always use transparency as the default setting.

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