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Mozella Richardson, education advocate in Buffalo, president of School Board

July 3, 1928 – May 31, 2015

Mozella Richardson, a mother of 10 and a former Buffalo School Board president who championed parent involvement and creation of the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, died Sunday in Buffalo. She was 86.

Mrs. Richardson, president of the Parent Teacher Association, gained national attention along with other parents from School 6 in 1963-64 for protesting an abusive administrator who was eventually removed.

Her activism and emphasis on improving the learning environment led to a job as a teacher’s aide and then to work as a community aide for the Community Action Organization of Erie County. After 25 years, she retired as manager of the Ellicott CAO Center.

In 1974, she was a member of Buffalo’s first elected School Board. Until then, board members had been appointed by the mayor.

As the Central District representative, she served four terms as board president: twice in the early 1980s and twice from 1992-94.

She introduced the idea and design for the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and organized the naming of School 39 as the Martin Luther King Community School.

Mrs. Richardson also was chairwoman of the committee for the construction of the Stanley M. Makowski Early Childhood Center.

She once described her philosophy in an interview this way:

“I strongly agree with the old adage that ‘an uneducated and underdeveloped mind is a terrible waste.’ In an urban setting like Buffalo, it is possible to provide various educational options for students and their families to choose from. Therefore, I support a multidisciplined educational system, which affords our students an integrated educational experience. … (F)or any educational program to be successful, parents and educators must be equal partners.”

After graduating at age 16 from Friendship Baptist Boarding School in Rockhill, S.C., she moved to Buffalo to join her mother, Roberta Dennis. She was young enough to enroll in high school again and went on to graduate from Fosdick-Masten Park High School. She earned an associate degree from Erie Community College and attended Buffalo State College and Temple University.

As a young woman, she joined Macedonia Baptist Church, where she married Herbert L. Richardson in 1951.

She later joined New Hope Baptist Church and then was a member of Delaware Avenue Baptist Church.

Her collection of awards and recognitions include, Mother of the Year Award and Family Life Award from the Buffalo Urban League, Family of the Year Award from the NAACP, the Brotherhood and Sisterhood for Community Service Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Survivors include six sons, Anthony, Charles Lawrence, Dennis, Herbert Andrew, Meredith James and Richard Michael; four daughters, Gwendolyn, Roberta Cates, Juanita Louise and Kimberly Taylor; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in Delaware Avenue Baptist Church, 965 Delaware Ave.

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