Tonawanda News

July 17, 2013

School board picks leaders

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — One North Tonawanda Board of Education member moved up in the leadership ranks last week and another returned to a familiar place near the top of the district’s hierarchy. 

In unanimous votes among their peers during the district’s reorganizational meeting on Thursday, Kevin LoCicero became the district’s new school board president after serving the past year as its second-in-command. He is beginning the second of a three-year term. 

Art Pappas, who has spent the better part of the last two decades on the board and served nearly 10 years as its president in the 1990s, was appointed as vice president. Frank DiBernardo did not seek another term as the board president after leading it through several tumultuous budgetary years and retaining his leadership in 2012 by a close 4-3 vote over Pappas for the presidency. None of the board’s five other members openly looked to gain either position, according to Pappas. 

Pappas held his seat in May for another three-year term with a convincing victory to lead all vote tallies in a pool of five candidates. 

Pappas said he and LiCicero have already discussed changing the culture of a board that has been saturated with uneasy relations among members over the last several years, as they navigated several challenges including the loss of state and federal funding, a slumping student populace and a state-mandated tax cap. 

While tensions eased during the 2012-2013 school year, in part due to a less vexing budget problems and the completion of a multi-million capital improvement project, Pappas said the early talk among board members seems to indicate a willingness to work together more cohesively than in the past.  

“I’m looking forward to a better year, a more positive year,” he said. “The whole board right now seems like they really want to start a new year off positively.” 

While LiCicero could not immediately be reached for comment, Superintendent Greg Woytila said that having the same board members for several years in a row — with Colleen Osborn, an incumbent, also holding on to her seat during recent elections — could help the varying personalities of the board members better meld. 

“Personality wise they had trouble dealing with each other so hopefully this will make it more of a group atmosphere,” he said. “Everybody is already familiar with what we have in front of us.” 

Woytila added that he and his administration are also looking to use the advantage of a veteran board to tighten up some of its policies and make them more succinct in advance of budget talks.

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.