Tonawanda News

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July 11, 2012

Niagara GOP's hand steering NT schools?

Tonawanda News — A contentious vote during North Tonawanda’s school board reorganization meeting had at least one member crying foul Tuesday, charging that local Republican political interests were a factor in deciding who should hold the nonpartisan board’s leadership posts.

The North Tonawanda Board of Education retained its president and nominated a new vice president by one-vote margins, indicating a possible rift among its members.

Frank DiBernardo held on for his second year as president in a 4-3 vote against Art Pappas, while Kevin LoCicero, a three-year board member who is entering his second term, was voted vice president after defeating Colleen Osborn by the same count.

The narrow split registered by the seven-member board suggests differences in its ranks. But it also, according to Osborn, signals the politicization of a governing body that normally precludes the influence of Republican and Democratic parties by its very nature.

Osborn said she had the backing of LoCicero after expressing interest in becoming vice president in mid-May.

LoCicero, however, said he recently informed her that he would himself be running for the post after speaking with the former head of the Niagara County Republican Party, Henry Wojtaszek — who advised LoCicero it would be a good political move to have the vice presidency under his belt as he eyes a possible run at the city council in the next few years.

“I had a conversation with Henry about the city council in the future,” said LoCicero, a registered Republican and longtime officer at the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department, soon after Tuesday’s vote. “(Am I) going to run for council in two years? I might, but I might also retire.”

While the agreement does not breach any legal precepts unless political donations are a factor, such blatant politicking on a nonpartisan school board is outside the norm, according to a representative of the New York State School Boards Association.

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