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With law enforcement background, Pierce takes aim at truancy on agenda to help at-risk students

Patricia A. Pierce has seen firsthand, through her career in law enforcement, the disastrous effects that a lack of education can have on children, as well as families.

“I’ve seen so many neglected children. I’m tired of seeing people in the back seat of my car that did not graduate from high school,” she said. “The pathway to education has been a pathway to incarceration, and it’s awful.”

If Pierce wins one of the three at-large seats on the Buffalo Board of Education in next Tuesday’s election, she wants to address the district’s truancy problems by establishing a community task force that brings social service agencies together to identify and address root causes.

“We need to get behind this effort and stop blaming everybody else, blaming the teachers. We have to start holding parents and students accountable,” Pierce said.

Part of the solution, she explained, might involve creating a dedicated courtroom to address chronic truants.

“When a child is not in school, they’re out on the street. That’s an opportunity for them to engage in drugs, alcohol, commit a crime, join a gang,” she said. “That not only puts the child at risk, but it puts the community at risk.”

Pierce, 58, graduated from Mount Mercy Academy and attended Alfred State College. She did not complete the program at Alfred but became a civilian report technician in the Buffalo Police Department.

She rose through the ranks to become a detective, then was appointed to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. She retired in 2005 as chief of patrol and investigative services. Pierce now works as an investigator on domestic violence cases in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

Known to many as Patricia Bowers – which had been her married name for many years – she has two grown children who attended Catholic schools and Frontier High School.

The South Buffalo resident said she was influenced to run for the School Board by Carl P. Paladino, who lives three blocks away from her. He did not ask her to run, she said, but she became interested in the schools a few years ago, when Paladino was a vocal critic of the board but before he was elected.

“When he was a vocal person at the School Board meetings, I liked his idea about boarding schools,” she said.

Pierce said she shares Paladino’s desire to see a boarding school established to help at-risk youth. Pierce would like such a school to be philanthropically funded and serve low-income students, including foster children. “Their needs would be met 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said. “They have the ability to do very, very well. The difference between success and failure in most children’s lives is a caring adult.”

She has also proposed eliminating the opportunity for public comment at School Board meetings. Such a change, she said, would shorten board meetings by as much as an hour and a half, enabling board members to spend more time discussing issues among themselves.

Instead of having a public comment period at board meetings, Pierce said, she would like the board to have regular public forums, in which residents could each speak longer than the three minutes they are allotted at board meetings, and board members could have a two-way dialogue with them.

Pierce would vote to fire Superintendent Pamela C. Brown, who she believes has made several critical errors, including hiring top administrators lacking proper state certification. A successor to the superintendent, Pierce said, should be found within the ranks of administrators in the Buffalo Public Schools.

“The district is made up of teams of brilliant educators,” she said.

Early in her campaign, Pierce said, she was getting help from friends and family members, as well as Paladino.

More recently, she has acknowledged support from a variety of backers who include several members of the city’s Republican Committee, including William E. Nowakowski, the chairman; Ralph C. Lorigo, chairman of the county’s Conservative Party; Democratic Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns; and Amy H. Friedman, president of Buffalo ReformED.

Pierce has been endorsed by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Patricia A. Pierce

Age: 58

Occupation: Investigator with Erie County District Attorney’s Office

Campaign supporters: Buffalo Niagara Partnership; Republican, Conservative and Democratic officials

Position on retaining Superintendent Pamela C. Brown: No

More charter schools: Yes

More city funding for education: No

Priorities: Multi-agency team to combat truancy, hold parents accountable for their children’s attendance

Quote: “We need to get behind this effort and stop blaming everybody else, blaming the teachers. We have to start holding parents and students accountable.”