Tonawanda News

February 15, 2014

TUCKER: Diocese offers odd suggestion

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Irritation

It’s not often that someone from out of the Tonawandas writes to refute what’s in this column. But Christian Riso, assistant superintendent of government programs for the Diocese of Buffalo took exception to my columns about busing students from North Tonawanda to St. Francis School in the City of Tonawanda.

Riso’s said that “it would seem that the problem is not the lack of a Catholic school in the Tonawandas, but the refusal of the public school boards in the Twin Cities to extend busing to Catholic school students beyond city lines. I would imagine that the good citizens of these cities should petition the civic community to provide busing in the same way that the surrounding public school districts do, so that children can attend a Catholic elementary school beyond the city line. Although the Tonawandas are not prohib­ited by state law from extending busing, they have chosen not to do so, and the parents, who are taxpayers and help fund public education, and who feel they have no choice in education, should be looking at those boards to vent their frustration.”

Too bad Mr. Riso didn’t research NT’s out of district busing policy because, if he had, he would have seen the following NT policy. It reads:

“Resident students who attend private or parochial schools outside the District and desire District transportation to and from those schools must request such transportation by April 1 of the school year preceding the transportation need. In such cases, the District will provide NFTA bus passes.”

Now, isn’t that a good idea? Can’t you just see the young students (Pre-K to eighth-grade) waiting for an NFTA bus at 7 a.m. by themselves and then riding that bus with strangers to Tonawanda, be dropped off on Niagara Street (formerly “the circle”) and then walking by themselves to the school on Adam Street? Has Christian Riso ever been to NT or even ridden a bus? Wonder if Mr. Riso has ever been to North Tonawanda or, has ever had his children (if he has any) ride an NFTA bus to school.

By the way, to see that route, go on the NFTA website and check Route 57. Here’s the gist of it: Niagara Falls Boulevard and Ward Road to Meadow and Payne Avenue, Payne to Goundry, then over the Seymour Bridge to Tonawanda.

I, for one, am happy the city does not add to its school budget woes by busing outside the district at its own expense as it wouldn’t just be to St. Francis but to any school within a 15-mile radius.

The diocese looks ridiculous for offering this “solution.”

Here’s more

Speaking of St. Francis, Jennifer LeRoy from Alden sent the following email:

“I just wanted to say that I am so impressed by your unfailing faith in the fight to save St. Francis. My childhood memories revolve around St. Francis, the City of Tonawanda and our family. There are many people out there that will tell you “you can’t.” But what you have to do is to turn around and say ‘watch me.’ I think you and many others have proved that you will persevere. “

Or how about this from Sandie Drake Quick on Facebook: “I am not Catholic, nor do I know of anyone who has attended St. Francis. However, I have never seen such a well thought out and intelligent display of people fighting for a school they love! Keep it up. You rock, St. Francis! I’m behind you 100 percent!”

Robert Zayatz emailed that he was a parishioner of the now defunct St. Joseph’s Parish in North Tonawanda. After the church closed, he and his wife decided to join St. Francis due “to Father Mike who made us feel wanted and at home.”

Mr. Zayatz was a sixth-grade student at St. Joe’s when the school opened and later his four sons attended St. Joe’s. The whole family became involved at the school.

When the word came out about St. Joe’s closing, he said a dozen men from the parish and Holy Name, formed a grass roots committee, met regularly, gathered signatures, composed a letter and sent it to the bishop by registered mail detailing why the parish should be kept open even though the pastor told them they were wasting their time.

Two weeks after the letter was sent, they found out it was still at the post office as the bishop’s secretary had not picked it up. So they went to the post office, retrieved the petition and hand-delivered it to the bishop’s residence but only got as far as the secretary who sent them home.

‘“I’m still upset over the way it was handled,” Mr. Zayatz wrote. “I wish Father Mike (I know his hands are tied) God speed.”

Sad note

One of the favorite visitors to the News editorial room, Cort Whitcomb, died this past week. He’d stop in to bring notices of activities at Live Hose for the paper. His jovial personality, great nicknames for both Jill Keppeler and me along with a stash of peanut butter cups endeared him. He was proud of his family, down to the youngest great-grandchild and entertained us with humorous stories. He was a humble person who never bragged about his many accomplishments and activities in the community. He just loved life and took it as it came. Condolences to his family.

Contact Community News Editor Barbara Tucker at or 693-1000 ext. 4110.

Contact Community News Editor Barbara Tucker at or 693-1000 ext. 4110.