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More on activist Sam Radford and the conclusion of the profile series

Today's lengthy personal profile on parent activist Samuel L. Radford III marks the last in a series of three profiles I've written about the Buffalo school district's new power players. We started with Superintendent Pamela Brown, and ran a prior profile on board member and developer Carl Paladino.

It's amazing how many commonalities these three figures share, despite being on opposite ends of so many education issues. All three faced deaths that altered the course of their lives. In Radford's case, it was the prospect of losing his own. Radford, like Paladino, once considered a career in the military. And both Radford and Superintendent Brown both can point to a specific, personal experience in their lives that convinced them that all children can learn, no matter how poor or disadvantaged.

None of the three high-profile figures I've written about came from privileged backgrounds, but rather had their characters forged under the heat of great adversity as young people.

Radford is a man of passionate conviction, but he also has a lengthy work history that was difficult to summarize for this profile. The link to his full resume can be found here.

Some facts about Radford that didn't make the story:

- Radford became a father in his junior year of high school. As a senior, angry at his father's strict disciplinarian ways, he moved out of his parents’ house and began community organizing work. The week after graduation, he joined the Marines, even though his parents had urged him to attend college. Radford said it wasn't until after he joined the Marines and had a family of his own that he understood his father better.

"He was making decisions because he loved me," Radford said. "He wasn’t trying to hurt me. I really wish I had listened."

- Radford chose not to re-enlist in the Marines after five years because his superior officer once denied him leave from his station in Japan when his wife and son were hospitalized stateside. "It just felt unjust to me," he said.

- When Radford tells the story about being shot by Verlon Tuck, he said some people wrongly conclude he was a street thug as a young man. But Radford said he had no inkling he was about to get caught up in bad situation. He said the violent gun incident had no back history -- it was just a heat-of-the-moment event. He added that he hasn't had anything to do with guns since his days in the Marines.

When Tuck was found and arrested months later, he was convicted of first-degree reckless endangerment in Radford's case even though Radford refused to testify against him. (Tuck was also conficted of felony assault in a separate incident.) Radford said he was concerned with retaliation and had also learned to let go of his own animosity toward Tuck and move on with his life. The two eventually made peace as ECC students, but Radford said he doesn't know what became of the man after his college days. A search of The News archives shows that a man named Verlon Tuck was arrested in 2003 and charged with being part of a cocaine drug ring. 

- As noted in the story, Radford has been married twice. His current wife, Antoinette Rhodes, is the principal of King Center Charter School. Radford has 14 children -- 12 biological children and two stepchildren.

What some other people had to say about Radford:

- DPCC rep Donyelle Crapsi, mother of a 7th grader at City Honors and three children at Olmsted 64, regarding the perception that Radford cares more about low-performing schools that high-performing schools like City Honors and Olmsted: "People might perceive that he’s trying to do more for other schools because he sees those schools needing more help and more direction ... Part of the reason for being the DPCC rep was I wanted to judge things for myself. I’m impressed with the level of commitment of the people in that room."

- BTF President Phil Rumore about the DPCC: "In order to make themselves look good, they make everybody else look bad."

- Board Member John Licata said some district leaders have difficulty reconciling what they say they want – engaged parents – and what they’re actually getting – frustrated parent activists critical of the district’s work. "Sam Radford, as a parent, has done everything that people have given lip service to for years."

- Radford on Buffalo school district leadership: "They’re willing to have an incremental solution that needs a sense of urgency."

Though my three-part profile series is now complete, The Buffalo News will continue to run "Profiles in Education," with other reporters doing profiles on other state and local education players. So be on the lookout for more. Happy reading!

-- Sandra Tan

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