NORTH TONAWANDA – With incumbents re-elected, the same board members took their seats at the North Tonawanda Board of Education’s reorganizational meeting this month, but new people took the top seats and will seek to promote a new atmosphere of communication and listening.
The new board went into action immediately, moving meeting dates from Tuesdays to Wednesdays. The board will meet at 7:30 p.m. on third Wednesdays in the administration building at 175 Humphrey St., a day of the week that is expected to make it easier for more board members and staff to attend.
New board President Kevin P. LoCicero, whose wife has been a special-education teacher in the North Tonawanda district for 33 years, is in the middle of his second three-year term and served as vice president in the past year. The board’s vice president is re-elected member Arthur Pappas, a retired educator and longtime board member who has served as the president in the past.
Also re-elected was Colleen Osborn, who will join members Frank DiBernardo, Donna Braun, Dorothy Kuebler and James Martineck.
“I look forward to working with Art. He’s been on the board for years and was a past president. We were friends before we were on the board,” LoCicero said.
He said there were divisions on the board in the past year.
LoCicero, a member of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, said he hopes to use his experience as a police officer to be a peacemaker on the board.
“I want to make things work. I don’t have time for the fighting and bickering,” he said. “The board shouldn’t be about politics, but what is best for the kids and best for the district.”
But he said that having the same board together again will be a good thing.
“With a new budget in place, it appears that the whole board is going to work together in a more positive manner. We all have respect for one another. This is a board that is together for another year, so stuff we have been working on we will have another year to work on. We know our personalities and know what we stand for,” LoCicero said.
He said communication will be a key to success in the upcoming year, but he said it was something that became harder and harder as the board was forced to make tough cuts with a shrinking budget in the last few years.
“I’ve had people call my house crying. I feel for them,” he said. “It seemed like the State of New York was balancing budgets on the backs of teachers. We’ve cut 80 staff members over the past year. When you are a board member, you see schools getting ripped apart, and you want to offer the best. We want to have academies (after-school programs for special-interest groups such as business and engineering.) We want to have gifted and talented programs and MVP – an advanced program that challenges the smartest of the smart.”
LoCicero said that rather than trying to operate the board on rumors, all board members will be assigned to a building and will be asked to visit their assigned buildings. Complaints from parents and staff will be directed to principals, then the superintendent before coming up for discussion at board meetings.
“We have to trust administrators more. They are the educators,” he said.
LoCicero said that may be easier now that capital projects have been completed.
“Budgets are number one. We have to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayer. We are on the board, but we are also taxpayers. I do agree with the state’s tax cap, but where do you cut?” LoCicero said.
He said, “Our plan is to be the No. 1 school district around and are striving for that, and every single board member is striving for the same thing.”