The Williamsville teachers' union on Tuesday maintained its perfect record since 2015 of electing its endorsed candidates to the Board of Education.
The union-backed slate of incumbents Shawn Lemay and Mark Mecca and newcomer Eric Borenstein were the top vote-getters in a field of seven candidates. Six-year incumbent Toni Vazquez, who received the union's endorsement in 2015, lost her re-election bid after she was denied an endorsement this year.
"The teachers come out and vote for teacher-endorsed candidates," Vazquez said. "That's what they did."
The Williamsville Teachers Association became more vocal with its endorsements in 2015, when employee complaints against Superintendent Scott Martzloff surfaced publicly. At that time, Vazquez was the lone board member to back the union's call for an independent investigation into the complaints, but her relationship with the union soured over the last year.
"I'm most proud of speaking independently and staying true to my convictions," Vazquez said of her board tenure.
Meanwhile, Lemay, a small-business owner who serves as board president, received the most votes, 18 percent, and said he had helped increase transparency and openness on the board by holding regular community forums, among other initiatives.
"We listened to what the constituents and the parents were asking," he said. "We opened up the lines of communication so we could talk and actually have meaningful dialogue."
Mecca, a school psychologist in Buffalo Public Schools, said that as a board member he helped create responsible budgets and settle contracts.
"We've moved the district in a positive direction," he said.
And Borenstein, a district resident of 24 years, said that as a retired symphony orchestra CEO he would advocate for arts in the curriculum.
"I just want to make sure there's a strong voice for music and the arts on the school board, especially going into a potential capital campaign for the arts at the end of the calendar year," he said.
The remaining three candidates – Robert Campo, Michael Littman and Dawn Fletch – had formed a slate in the week before the election and offered themselves as an alternative to the union-backed candidates. They touted their records as PTSA presidents and pledged to represent parents, teachers, students and taxpayers.
Campo, a 20-year resident of the district and assistant professor of physics and biology at Erie Community College, said he saw the move as the only way to counter the union's dominance in driving turnout. He finished with 12 percent of the vote, to Littman's 14 percent and Fletch's 13 percent.
Turnout this year – 3,163 voters for the 2018-19 budget of $190.4 million, which passed with 80 percent in favor – was slightly lower than in previous years. In the five votes from 2013 to 2017, the district saw an average of about 4,000 voters. There are about 51,000 registered voters in the district; however, the actual number is higher, because residents do not need to be registered with the county Board of Elections to vote on a budget.