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NYSUT leads way in trying to knock Buffalo School Board candidates off ballot

Nominating petitions have been filed.

General objections have been lodged.

Now begins the process of seeing who will be on the ballot for the May 3 Buffalo School Board election and who – if anyone – will be knocked off.

So far, the powerful New York State United Teachers union seems to be most aggressive in trying to oust candidates it doesn’t like from the race.

When the deadline for objections ended Tuesday, 10 of the 12 candidates vying for the six district seats on the nine-member board had general objections filed against them, and NYSUT was behind many of them. The general objection serves notice that someone intends to file specific objections to a candidate’s petitions – challenging, for instance, the legitimacy of signatures or the voting status of the signer – during a second window that began Wednesday and runs through Monday.

Only North District challenger Hope R. Jay and Ferry District incumbent Sharon M. Belton-Cottman, who is unopposed, had no general objections filed against them, meaning they are assured of being on the ballot.

With two-thirds of the seats up this year, control of the School Board and the direction of the district is up for grabs, as members of both the majority and minority blocs on the board face challengers. Factions ranging from teachers unions to business groups to local political organizations are involving themselves in the races, supporting or opposing candidates in hopes of shaping a new board aligned with their interests.

The most prolific objector to candidates’ petitions appears to be Danielle N. Judge, who is a NYSUT volunteer organizer and who is employed by the American Federation of Teachers, according to a NYSUT spokesman.

Judge filed general objections against:

• Board President James M. Sampson of the West District.

• Park District incumbent Carl P. Paladino.

• North District incumbent Jason M. McCarthy.

• Bryon J. McIntyre, a frequent district critic running for the Central District seat being vacated by Mary Ruth Kapsiak, who is retiring.

• East District challenger Colleen E. Russell, who is aligned with the board’s majority bloc.

• East District challenger Patricia A. Elliott, who is facing off against minority bloc incumbent Theresa A. Harris-Tigg.

All of the candidates targeted by NYSUT have, in one way or another, advocated reforms and been critical of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, a NYSUT affiliate.

Paladino was the only candidate to escape any other challenges. He – along with Sampson and McCarthy – have been criticized by BTF and NYSUT officials for not doing enough to fix the district and for not garnering support from teachers and unions.

Paladino and Sampson have countered by saying that teacher unions should not support candidates for the Buffalo Board of Education because, if elected, those candidates would face a conflict of interest when it comes to negotiating a new BTF contract.

“There’s a conflict when the union controls people who are on the School Board and negotiate a contract,” Sampson said recently.

Other candidates faced objections from a variety of individuals as well as, in some cases, the people they are running against or their associates.

For instance, Harris-Tigg’s husband, Robert III, challenged his wife’s rivals, Russell and Elliott. Harris-Tigg’s son, Jason Prophet, also filed a general objection against Elliot.

Meanwhile, Sampson’s petition also was challenged by Johnnie Fenderson – who works with Sampson’s opponent, Jennifer L. Mecozzi, at PUSH Buffalo. In turn, Sampson took the same action against Mecozzi, his only challenger.

And Paladino’s campaign manager, Erik T. Bohen, filed an objection against 18-year-old Austin Harig, who is running against Paladino.

After specific objections are filed by Monday, two Erie County Board of Elections employees – one Democrat and one Republican – will double-check the line-by-line objections and make a preliminary recommendation as to whether to strike the signature or not. This stage in the process can take at least a couple of days, election officials said.

Then public hearings are scheduled with the candidate and the objector. The two elections commissioners – Republican Ralph M. Mohr and Democrat Leonard R. Lenihan – preside over the hearings and come up with a ruling together to determine the final ballot, election officials said.


Teachers target sixA New York State United Teachers volunteer filed objections against these School Board candidatesJames M. Sampson

Board President of West District

Alignment: Part of majority bloc

Stance: Concerned rising teacher union influence on state Board of Regents could hurt Buffalo reform efforts

Carl P. Paladino

Park District incumbent

Alignment: Part of majority bloc pushing reforms

Stance: Calls it a conflict of interest for union to endorse board members who might vote on new teacher contract

Jason M. McCarthy

North District incumbent

Alignment: Part of majority bloc

Stance: Criticizes teachers for not using online Parent Portal to update parents because hold-over contract doesn’t mandate it

Bryon J. McIntyre

Central District challenger

Alignment: Part of “parent coalition” of challengers

Stance: Officer in District Parent Coordinating Council who is often at odds with teachers union

Colleen E. Russell

East District challenger

Alignment: Supports majority bloc

Stance: Recruited to run by Paladino, who is vociferous critic of teachers union

Patricia A. Elliott

East District challenger

Alignment: Part of “parent coalition” of challengers

Stance: Thinks district must diversify teaching staff, contract gives too much in benefits and power to teachers