Today the Williamsville Board of Education has the opportunity to make a positive change, and to take a step forward, not a step back. It is incumbent upon them to do so.
Twenty-six people have thrown their hat in the ring to be appointed, including former BOE candidate Terry King, former BOE president Ron Shubert, and several others with previous BOE experience. It is disheartening to see one specific name on this list. Former BOE member Suzanne VanSice's tenure in Williamsville schools has been marked with corruption and self-interest.
Eight years ago, during one of the most contentious eras in district history, the district filed a grievance against the law firm which represented them in matters of labor relations. After being paid a quarter million dollars by the district, Harris Beach violated the “Rules of Professional Conduct” by participating in a problematic conflict of interest with a Williamsville Assistant Superintendent. As a result, they were removed from the district.
After joining the board, one of Mrs. VanSice's top priorities was reinstating the district’s contract with Harris Beach, despite their track record of malfeasance. Voting on legal counsel for the district, a usually routine matter, became a complex set of meetings and executive session discussions, and was repeatedly delayed for two years, until then superintendent Martzloff finally relented. Notably, Mrs. VanSice's sister happens to work for Harris Beach in the district.
Furthermore, Mrs. VanSice sided with the former Assistant Superintendent, even after the state deemed that her conduct warranted removal. She was one of only two board members to do so. This investigation cost the district millions of dollars.
Finally, during the pandemic, when parents started to pay more attention to the happenings in the district, Mrs. VanSice used her position on the school board to make legal threats against district parents who had brought attention to her behavior.
The purpose of the Board of Education is to serve the students, parents, and community in the district. It is not meant to be a social club, an extension of the will of the superintendent, or a clique. It is a governing board. Without a strong Board of Education, made up of honest individuals, who are not self-interested, Williamsville schools will continue to struggle.
If the current Board does not appoint a new member, the vacancy will be filled by voters as part of a special election in May. If the vacancy must be filled, it should be by someone without such a problematic track record in the district. The last time Williamsville faced a vacancy, the seat went unfilled for much longer than three months. Wait it out, and let the community decide.
This important session is tonight at 7pm. If you can attend, please do.
Below are some of the relating documents.
Below is the text of an email sent to the Williamsville Board of Education President March 1st, 2023.
I hope you are well. I am writing because, once again, the district is exposing itself to liability, this time with regards to censorship on the district social media pages.
Social media for government entities are considered a "public forum." This includes the official social media pages and posts for school districts. In Duhamel & DuBois v. Baldelli-Hunt, it was ruled that censoring these pages violated posters' first amendment rights, and the government subsequently paid $7,000 in a settlement to the two plaintiffs, for attorney fees and court costs.
An additional, earlier case:
I trust that, now informed in your official capacity as Board of Education president, you will ensure that the district respects the first amendment rights of district residents moving forward, and does not knowingly and negligently expose itself to further liability.
Have a great Tuesday,
WNY Students First
Below are the questions and answers that Stu provided us which were used in our determination to support him for the Board of Education.
1. There are many issues facing education at large and students in this district. What do
you see as the three most critical issues facing our district today?
The biggest issue facing the district is making up for the learning loss do the pandemic.
The second biggest issue is making the board more transparent in its decision-making
process. The third biggest issue is making sure that the needs of all student are being
2. The board members that we elected last year have been more vocal and communicative
with parents and the community as individuals. Will you continue this trend?
3. Many parents purchase homes in the district specifically for the education that
Williamsville Schools are known for. With academic achievement in the district declining
relative to other districts with similar socioeconomic makeups, what can the district do to
put Williamsville "back on top?"
The district must have a cohesive curriculum from k-12 that allows teachers to teach and
students to learn to their fullest potential. The curriculum must integrate students’ social
and emotional learning as well as pure academics, taking into account best practices.
4. How can we balance needing to discuss controversial issues with ensuring that all
students and parents feel that they can be a part of the discussion?
Classrooms need to be a place where students feel safe to discuss ideas and thoughts
that not everyone agrees upon. A teacher’s job is to present all ideas and then allow
students to use their critical thinking skills to help them form their opinions. The teacher’s
role is to help guide the discussion but not present their opinion as the sole answer. A
teacher can provide parents with many resources to help parents have a discussion at
5. New York State is proposing a sexual education curriculum that begins in kindergarten.
Do you feel that the current sexual education that students receive is adequate, and
what are your thoughts on the proposed curriculum?
I am not aware of the proposed curriculum at this time.
6. Some districts are moving to a "culturally responsive" system that considers the ethnicity
and background in student academic achievement and discipline in schools. Do you feel
these policies are effective and appropriate?
It is important to take into account a student’s background so they feel connected to
learning. It is also important to look if the student is being punished based on his or her
race or for their actions.
7. What is your stance on the role, benefits, and drawbacks to standardized testing?
Standardized testing ends up teaching to the middle and moving froward will have less
and less effect on a student’s educational journey. The drawback is it is not a true
measure of student knowledge and takes away time from learning.
8. Board of Education transparency is a key concern for parents. There has been a lack of
transparency around coaching decisions, staffing decisions, curriculum, and the school
reopening. How will you win back the trust of the community for the Board of Education?
Actions speak louder than words. How I will conduct myself on the board is the true test.
I would always be open to input for community members and explain my decision.
9. The Williamsville school district is one of the most diverse districts in Western New York,
but certain demographics continue to be underrepresented on the board, district
committees, etc. How do you personally define diversity and inclusion, and what can the
district do to make these bodies more inclusive?
Make sure we have people of all backgrounds feel welcome. It is important to teach out
to all communities to seek out their input on issues. We must encourage all people to be
active in the school system and the process of making policy.
10. Many parents are concerned about DEI and SEL programs being used as vehicles for
districts, buildings, or individual teachers to inject political views into the classroom. How
do you balance the value of these programs with these concerns?
It is important to understand the fears of parents of the classroom being politized. But at
same time it is important to allow students to be exposed to as many ideas as possible.
11. The COVID pandemic has created serious issues with regards to mental health. How
should the district remediate those issues, and in what way can the district better involve
The district must allocate more resources to the mental health issues of its students and
use these resources effectively.
12. Many times in the last two years, parents have been looking to Board of Education
members to be more vocal. What do you feel the role of a Board of Education member is
as a leader in the community?
Board members are leaders in the community. Their focus is on education and helping
the superintendent make some decisions about the district.
13. If you don't win a seat on the Board of Education, do you plan to run again in the future?
How do you plan to be involved otherwise?
I really don’t know. I can’t foresee the future. But I will remain active in the district.
14. What are your thoughts on education for the sake of knowledge vs as it pertains to
college preparedness and workforce readiness?
It is the job of the district to help prepare students for the next level of education or job
15. Do you agree with the NYS Education Department that schools should teach students to
be social activists?
I believe that students have the right to speak up in what they believe in. A school’s job
is to educate a student to become an engaged citizen of the world and his/her/their
16. Technology has become ubiquitous in the classroom. Do you think that technology is
over/under leveraged, what skills do you think students may be missing out on due to
the easy access to technology, and should parents be concerned?
This is very hard to answer. Each classroom is a different milieu. We must prepare
students to be able to use technology as they move forward but at the same time still
stress all types of learning methods.
17. In the last decade and a half, the percentage of the district budget that goes to teacher
compensation has gone from two thirds to three quarters, and if trends continue that
number will be four fifths by 2025. What problems might this result in?
The district may have to hire less expensive options such as younger, less experienced
teachers. The district might be forced to cut back on extras such as sports and such.
Some problems might be higher class size and could force teacher turnover.
18. Specifically pertaining to education, what individual (teacher, principal, coach, professor)
has had the greatest impact on you, or do you look up to the most?
The teacher who had the most impact on me was my 9thy grade history teacher. He is
really the model I have used in my teaching career. He taught using story and getting
everyone involved and feeling valued.
19. What is your vision for Williamsville Schools as a parent, community member, and
potential Board of Education member?
My vision is to have an inclusive environment where students can thrive and succeed
academically, emotionally, and socially.
To request an absentee ballot, contact Lynn Carey either by phone, email, or at the district office:
105 Casey Rd
East Amherst, NY 14221
Absentee ballots are also available in the Main Office of any WCSD school during normal business hours (7:30am-4:30pm). If you email your request, please include "Application" in the subject line.
The voter will need to complete an absentee ballot application and return to the District Clerk by May 10th if the application is to be mailed to the voter OR the day before the election, May 16th, if the ballot is to be delivered in-person at District Office to the voter.
If the application meets all of the required criteria and the applicant is a qualified voter, the District Clerk may issue an absentee ballot. The absentee ballot will be mailed or available for pick up for those who completed the application at the District Office sometime after April 21st.
Once application and absentee ballot is requested a packet, with application included (if not completed), can be mailed out or picked up at the District Office.
Several options are available when turning in packet:
1. Return completed application and ballot by mail according to instructions in the packet.
2. Place ballot in the locked drop box located outside of the entry to WCSD District Office (105 Casey Road, E. Amherst, NY 14221)
3. Return to the District Office during regular office hours (7:30am - 4:30pm on school days.)
I am seeking election to the Board of Education to make a positive difference. I am uniquely qualified as a teacher of 24 years, special ed parent, and Williamsville resident. I hope to help all students reach their potential. I want to make sure all students and teachers can be successful in their classroom. Lastly, I want to explore ways to make Williamsville a leader in providing services for special education students.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
· Special education
· Mental health
· District must be open to helping children more directly
· Learning loss/Academics
· Emily (22), Williamsville CSD Graduate
· David (19), Williamsville North High School
· Buffalo Public Schools Teacher at Hutchinson Technical High School
· B.A. Political Science, Syracuse University
· Master of Education, University of Buffalo
· AYB Basketball Coach, 2010-2016
· Assistant Coach, Unified Basketball, Hutch Tech High School
· Member of Williamsville Septsa (Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association)
Public education can be the most powerful tool we have to create social mobility, a strong community and engage the next generation. I am seeking election because our district needs brave and creative board leaders that will help restore the trust and relationship between parents, faculty, students, and the administration. I believe I am such a leader that is both capable and energized to address the many critical issues facing our district today and the years ahead.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start from where you are and change the ending.”
· Rebuilding Trust in the School Community
· Learning Loss/Academics
· Equal Opportunities for All Students Regardless of District Building
· Jack, Heim Middle School
· Ben, Heim Elementary School
· Attorney, Merchants Insurance Group
· J.D., University at Buffalo Law School (2008)
· B.A. Fairfield University, (2004)
· Williamsville Jr. Flag Football | Team Parent
· Amherst Soccer | Volunteer & Coach (2010, 2015-2019)
· Women’s Bar Association | Local Director
· Leadership Niagara (Class of 2015)
· DRI | Industry Vice Chair, Insurance Coverage & Claims
· Defense Attorneys of New York (DANY) | Amicus Committee member
· Reading for Entertainment and Education
· Organizational Leadership
· Youth Sports and Athletics
· Meditation and Yoga
· Animal Rescue
Jessica can be contacted via email at Foscolo4SchoolBoard@gmail.com
I would like to run for the board to be a voice for students, teachers, and parents in the Williamsville community. I will utilize my skills in analytic-based thinking and problem solving to assist with helping to influence the fiscal health of the district. In addition, a focus on excellence in education, along with student and teacher health and wellness, supporting a whole-child approach. This will give our students the foundation they need to become well-rounded healthy individuals, equipped with a solid education and important life skills to help them reach their full potential. I believe in quality public education, and I am excited to contribute and help to improve our Williamsville schools!
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha
· Advancing Education
· Fiscal Responsibility
· "Teach the whole child"
· Henry, Forest Elementary School
· Director, Sales Executive at Conduent
· B.A. in Computer Science and Accounting, University at Buffalo
· School Wellness Awareness Project (SWAP) | Executive Director
· Ninja Warrior
· Enjoying the outdoors
I stand before you as the mother of 4 children who graduated from the Williamsville Schools. One in 2015, one in 2016 and twins in 2021.
I came tonight after reading with interest and great sadness the comments, criticisms, hatred, misinformation and opinions I have read on social media from parents of this district on the topic of transgender students. A copy of an email sent to Mr. Swatland after the last board meeting from a mom was posted on facebook and it read: I demand to know how you are going to protect my daughters from those people.
I am here tonight because I have a child who is one of “those people.” I have a child who is transgender.
Our story begins over 10 years ago when our oldest was a freshman at East and came out as being gay. I reached out to the school social worker at Wville East and she agreed to meet with me because I was scared as to what my child’s life would and could be as a gay adult. I didn’t know how my child would be treated in schools, in the work force, in relationships and how to help my child handle rejection and judgement growing up gay in elite Williamsville.
During our meeting the social worker informed me that there was another mother who she was working with who has a daughter who was transgender and transitioning to which I instantaneously replied “if that ever happens to my child you can put me in a box”.
So I, like most of you, never in a million years believed it would be my child who would be transgender. I never thought in a million years my happy but confused, sweet but unassured, loving but guarded child would turn our family, and our perfect Williamsville life upside down.
But actually, it didn’t turn our life upside down after all. It brought our immediate family, our extended family and our friends together. Our child taught all of us the true meaning of acceptance, tolerance, and a greater understanding of LGBT and the differences that make all of us special. Our child taught us that living your true life, allowing and supporting others to live their true life and being loved and accepted for who we are is really all that matters in this life.
I have read many comments recently from Williamsville parents on social media who describe their fear of transgender students as “gender pretend,” “gender fantasy” and “gender faking”. These are hurtful, inflammatory and downright inaccurate terms.
I can assure you a transgender life is not pretend. It is not an easy life and transitioning is not an easy journey for the child or their family.
As a family we have spent tens of thousands of dollars on counseling, surgery, medication and support because when our child transitioned – health insurance covered none of it. And although it has been difficult at times the journey has been worth every penny.
Before I close, I want to commend this Board of Education, Dr Brown-Hall and the administration for taking on this sensitive topic and for caring about the transgender students of our school district.
And I want to remind all of the parents that should it be your child or your friends child or your childs friend who informs you that they are transgender and you chose not to accept them or believe them let me share some stark statistics with you.
In 2020 52% of all non-binary and transgender youth in US considered killing themselves and 35% of trans youth in WNY alone are homeless or live in foster care.
Sadly, many transgender students don’t have accepting families and households and the least a student can hope for is to find a safe place at school.
So as you can see, I am not in a box but more importantly, my transgender child is not in a box.
My son is college educated, successfully employed, handsome as hell, donates his time and money to causes he cares about. He is kind, compassionate and forgiving and if he knew I was here tonight he would say “Mom, its ok. Those other parents, they just don’t understand.”