The offbeat side of the news - The Buffalo News

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The offbeat side of the news

Do as I say

On the eve of the Lancaster School District’s first Day of Kindness, a sad irony occurred.

Tensions about state testing bubbled over during Monday’s School Board meeting. The board president told parents if they are unhappy, to “look elsewhere.”

Lancaster has decided that students who opt-out of the tests should sit quietly and do nothing, and they are only allowed to read toward the last few minutes. This hasn’t gone over well with parents, who told the board they think it is punitive and a form of child abuse.

“If you are not happy, then I ask that you look elsewhere,” said Board President Marie MacKay, who asked parents if they had ever witnessed child abuse.

Board Vice President Wendy Buchert chastised parents for leaving the meeting while board members were speaking, after they had listened to the parents. The following day, parents said they had been fed up with the tone of the scolding and left.

In honor of the “Day of Kindness,” the district posted on Facebook: “Kindness is contagious. Help us spread it!!”

Hopefully, the students got the message.

Change is always hard

What a difference a year makes.

Two weeks ago, John R. Koelmel, chairman of the board of Kaleida Health, explained to a room of reporters that the board had asked for the resignation of longtime CEO James R. Kaskie because a review of the hospital system’s operations determined a change at the top was needed.

“Making a leadership change is the most difficult decision any board ever has to make,” Koelmel said.

Koelmel could have added, “And I should know.” (He didn’t).

One year ago, Koelmel was on the receiving end of that “difficult decision,” when the board of First Niagara Financial Group ousted him as the bank’s CEO.

But Koelmel’s not the only one with a role reversal here.

Last year, when The News reported on Koelmel’s exit from First Niagara, Kaskie was asked about his experience working with Koelmel at Kaleida.

“Unfortunately, in the business world, executive-level changes do occur. But this does not diminish John’s role with our organization,” Kaskie said. “We look forward to John continuing his role as chair of the Kaleida Health board of directors.” Given how things turned out, we bet Kaskie wouldn’t put things quite the same way today.

Gift that bowls you over

Dr. Kenneth Anthone performs free cataract surgeries once a year.

Top local bowler Al Strianese, who had been diagnosed as being legally blind in both eyes, received a free surgery in 2011, which restored the vision on his left eye.

Strianese was laid off from his job as pro shop manager at the former South Transit Lanes in Lockport as his vision deteriorated. He was given medical permission to return to work, but his employer and then the establishment’s new owners never called him back. Strianese sued them last April, alleging that their failure to give him back his job violated the Americans With Disabilities Act. He is seeking back pay and $1.45 million in damages.

After The News ran a story about Strianese’s legal fight, a spokesman for Anthone said he will perform free cataract surgery on his right eye during the next round of donated surgeries. Strianese’s attorney, Rafael O. Gomez, said he will contact his client about the offer.

Written by Jill Terreri, with contributions from Karen Robinson, Stephen T. Watson, James Staas and Joseph Popiolkowski. email:

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