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Tackling challenges as an engineer, Buccilli offers ‘ability to solve problems’ in bid for School Board seat

Stephen M. Buccilli would like to employ the methodical approach he uses as an engineer to find solutions if he becomes a member of the Buffalo Board of Education.

“With my background as an engineer, I bring the ability to solve problems. As an engineer, I’m a proactive person,” he said.

“People confuse the School Board with making policies. I believe its role is to question the administration. I feel the board needs to ask the questions: What went wrong? How are we going to fix this? Those are vital questions.”

A civil engineer at Watts Architecture & Engineering for the last decade, he graduated from Cheektowaga Central High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from Clarkson University and a master’s from the University at Buffalo.

The North Buffalo resident, who is married to a teacher in the district, is running his campaign without the support of any organized groups in the community.

He had hoped to get endorsements from the Buffalo Teachers Federation and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, two groups that generally take opposing positions on education issues.

While many candidates court one side or another, he said he prides himself on not choosing sides.

“With the situation we have in the district, you need to be open to both sides. That’s what I’m trying to get out of this, just learning what everyone wants,” he said. “I’m not a politician. I do not have a line in the sand. What I bring to the district is an open ear, being willing to listen to people.”

Buccilli personally collected about 1,000 of the 1,200 signatures for his nominating petitions. When he went door-to-door, he heard complaints from many people about what they feel is a lack of transparency and communication from the board. “This community feels a heartfelt lack of respect,” he said.

As one step toward improving communications and transparency, he would like board members to publicly document which schools they have visited and when.

If he wins one of the three at-large seats on the board in the May 6 election, Buccilli would like to work toward expanding career and technical education programs in the schools. “Many people in the city want to see the return of that,” he said.

The district should partner with local companies and organizations to tap into more resources for students pursuing career and technical education, he said.

Increased academic requirements set by the state have made it more difficult for schools to offer programs that provide students the chance to earn professional credentials in their field when they graduate from high school, he said. For example, it is difficult to provide students enough hours in plumbing to graduate with a plumbing certificate.

But the schools need to find a way to offer students such opportunities, he said.

Buccilli, 32, said he supports parents’ freedom of choice, which some parents use to select charter schools. He would support more charter schools in Buffalo only if they meet a need that is not already being filled.

“But blanketly turning a school into a charter school is not going to give you that success,” he said.

He would like to see the city provide more money to the school district.

“I do not want the city to give a blank check,” he said. “But I do believe some programs would be vital that we should bring back.”

He declined to say whether he would vote to retain Pamela C. Brown as superintendent.

“Two things I believe she is not performing on are transparency and accountability. She is not giving information to parents about what is going on. I feel there is too much passing the buck,” Buccilli said. “I’m more on the negative side of neutral in my opinion of Dr. Brown. But I have not decided.”

Stephen M. Buccilli

Age: 32

Occupation: Engineer at Watts Architecture & Engineering

Campaign supporters: No high-profile supporters to date

Position on retaining Superintendent Pamela C. Brown: Would not say

More charter schools: Yes

More city funding for education: Yes

Priorities: Increased transparency, expanded career and technical education

Quote: “What I bring to the district is an open ear, being willing to listen to people.”