Larry Quinn is out of the race for the Buffalo Board of Education.
The longtime developer and former minority owner of the Buffalo Sabres is closing out his five-year term as an at-large member of the School Board, but had been considering a run against fellow Board Member Hope Jay for her three-year seat representing the North District.
Now he’s decided against it.
Quinn, who has been a vocal critic of the school system and the power wielded by its teachers union, was waiting to see what candidates and alliances might emerge for the May 7 ballot. He was holding out for the possibility of playing a role on a new majority bloc, similar to what he was part of during the start of his tenure on the nine-member board.
“I don’t see it,” Quinn said Tuesday. “Me sitting on that board is not going to make a difference unless there’s four other people that think the way I do.”
Quinn handily won election to the School Board in 2014 and, along with Carl Paladino, was part of a board majority that set out to overhaul what they saw as a broken and dysfunctional school system.
Two years later, the majority began falling apart. Two of its members were gone in the next election, and Paladino would eventually be removed from the board by the state education commissioner.
Quinn and at-large Board Member Patricia Pierce, who also is not seeking re-election this year, are the last vestiges of that former majority bloc.
Quinn said the district has made some incremental gains, which is good, but he doesn’t buy that it has “turned around” like Superintendent Kriner Cash proclaimed in January, after the state released improved accountability scores for Buffalo schools.
“This isn’t about being critical of Cash, it’s about systems,” Quinn said. “You can have Barack Obama as superintendent and it wouldn’t matter because the system is so geared toward preserving adult power.”
Quinn, for example, referred to the district’s inability to be more innovative in the schools due to the contractual obligations with the Buffalo Teachers Federation.
All nine Board of Education seats are on the ballot this year. However, he said, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Byron W. Brown need to be more involved in urban education and, rather than being elected, members of the Board of Education need to be appointed.
He’s grateful, though, for his time on the School Board and the deeper understanding he's developed about the myriad problems facing many children in the district.
Since his time on the board, five students he either knew or met or shook hands with during graduations, were victims of homicide.
“This experience has been an eye-opener for me,” Quinn said. “It’s made me a better person and I think I view society in a very different way. I really do.”