The newest member of the Buffalo Board of Education is a former member of the Buffalo Board of Education.
Louis J. Petrucci, 53, a former board president and the last Park District representative prior to Carl P. Paladino, was chosen on Thursday by the other members of the School Board to fill the vacant seat representing South Buffalo.
Seven candidates were competing to fill the seat, left vacant in May when Catherine Flanagan-Priore abruptly resigned in protest over the district’s handling of a nursing contract and what she described as a lack of transparency. She lasted nine months, after being chosen by the board to fill the seat when Paladino was removed by the state education commissioner.
After interviewing candidates Wednesday and Thursday, seven of the board members voted to appoint Petrucci, said Sharon Belton-Cottman, who represents the Ferry District and led the candidate interviews. Paulette Woods, who represents the Central District, abstained from the vote.
Petrucci is well-versed in Buffalo schools, having served on the School Board between 2007 and 2013, including a year as board president. He works as assistant director for the Department of Permit and Inspection Services for the City of Buffalo. He is a 1983 graduate of City Honors School and has four children who went through Buffalo Public Schools.
"Even though I spent six years on the board, there are things I still want to accomplish and I'm hoping to get them done during my time on the board," Petrucci said.
Petrucci, for example, talked about a variety of transportation issues, such as the millions of dollars the school district pays to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority for student bus passes that are highly restrictive.
He also spoke about the lack of advanced courses offered at most of the district's high schools and the different educational experiences families face in the criterion schools compared to its non-criterion schools.
"We have to make sure we level that playing field in both course offerings and access," Petrucci said.
Petrucci will serve the remaining year of a three-year term. He is non-committal, at this point, about running for election in 2019 when his term is up.
"I was very happy with the quality of the candidates," Cottman said. "But for me, I think the board was most comfortable with Lou, more so than any of the other candidates."
Cottman said she previously served with Petrucci on the School Board. She called him a "gentleman" and said he is "respectful of other people."
"Certainly, he has a strong affinity for South Buffalo and has strong relationships with South Buffalo," Cottman said. "He understands what's involved to do the job. He understands you're not always going to win or have your way all the time, but once the board makes a decision we live by it and move forward."
"What it boiled down to," Cottman said, "was wanting someone who can get up and running without being handheld at this point. That was important."