School Board President Russell Petrozzi got a break from his duties Thursday night, thanks to an eighth-grader from LaSalle Middle School.
Whitney Wyno, who dreams of becoming a cosmetologist after high school, took over the Board of Education meeting as president for a night and conducted business like an old pro.
She read resolutions, called for motions and seconds and generally cut the mustard without skipping a beat.
The 14-year-old even found time to lobby Superintendent Carmen A. Granto to start up an "I Want a Baby, Think It Over Program" in her middle school. Granto heard her out prior to the board session and told her whom to contact to discuss the matter further.
What motivated her to ask?
"It's a good program because it shows what happens to you if you have a baby," she said. "I brought it up because there was a girl at my school who just recently got pregnant at the age of 14, I believe. Now she's at home taking care of her baby. So I figure, OK, we need to get this program in our school" as a preventive measure and a learning experience.
She said she is familiar with the program and feels her cause is justified because "we had a program like that where I used to go to school in Cuba, N.Y. And I figure since they have it at Gaskill Middle School and Niagara Middle School, we should have it at LaSalle Middle."
Describing how the program works, Wyno said, "You take a fake baby home, but you have to treat it like a real baby. You take it home, feed it, change it and do all the things you'd need to do if it was a real baby. You even have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed it. It shows you what it's like to have a baby and how it changes your life."
Petrozzi said he was very impressed with Wyno.
"I think she did a great job tonight," he said. "She got right down to business. She was short, quiet and concise."
He also said he believed that, with her leadership qualities, cosmetology is not the only career he sees in Wyno's future. He said she's already a great School Board president.
Wyno said she was very nervous before arriving at Niagara Falls High School on Thursday but calmed down once she got to know everybody a bit.
"I was sweating and sweating on my way (to the meeting), but I got comfortable after a while. It's the best time I ever had," the blond middle-schooler said.
She was one among 15 city middle school pupils who were selected as board members or district administrators for a night. The pupils were selected by their building principals and social studies teachers to participate in the annual program.
Alexis Schmidke of Gaskill, honorary superintendent, sat with Granto at the board table and delivered Granto's report to the board.
Other pupils and the board members they represented were: Andrew Colangelo of Gaskill for Nicholas Vilardo; Christopher Kulbago of Niagara Middle for Christopher Brown; Kimberly Martell of Gaskill for Kevin Dobbs, Deana Jensen of Niagara Middle for Robert Kazeangin; and David McDouglad of Niagara Middle for Jeanette Stypa.
Pupils who took over as administrators were: Gino LoBianco, Tyler Leo, Denise Reed and Shaquan Rodgers of LaSalle, Micheala Neil and Rashinika Vails of Gaskill and Kayla Briggs and Valbrielle Walker of Niagara.