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.