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NEW CITIZENS GROUP BACKS QUALITY EDUCATION

With taxpayers groups trying to gain power in the Williamsville Central School District, an alternate citizens organization has emerged, pushing for quality education.

The group, Alliance for Quality Education, is still in the fledgling stage, with a core of about 15 members, headed by JoAnne Smith, a parent activist with three children in district schools.

"We felt a need to speak out on quality education," Mrs. Smith said. "We support cost savings vs. cost cutting. Not a blank check, but quality is important."

"With three sons, I've been in schools 12 or 15 times since September. I see what is happening in the schools," added her husband, Dennis. "It is good programming at average costs."

The group is expected to endorse candidates for the May 19 School Board election, serving as an opposing force to taxpayer groups who endorse candidates.

Three seats are up on the nine-member School Board. Two incumbents, Linda M. Schott and Timothy Kane, are seeking re-election. A third incumbent, Richard B. Barbour, is not.

Currently, Ken Smith -- no relation to Mrs. Smith -- is the only School Board member affiliated with taxpayer groups, but those organizations plan to make endorsements in the upcoming election and hope eventually to take control of the board.

The taxpayer groups are calling on the School Board to cut costs by reducing staff and redistricting.

Mrs. Smith has frequently expressed concern that some taxpayer group proposals are shortsighted and lack a firsthand understanding of the district's educational program.

Her group, she said, will take a community-minded approach, supporting not only quality education but also things such as keeping school buildings open on weekends for community use.

Board member Smith said Mrs. Smith is tied to the current School Board majority, given her past support at board meetings for existing district policies.

"They have a right to do whatever they want to do," he said of Mrs. Smith's group. "The question is, 'Do they know what quality education is?'"

"We are not against education," he said of taxpayers groups. "We are all for quality education. That is part of our mission statement."

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