September 27, 2011
DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs Samuel Radford III, Halimah Muhammad, and Renee McIntyre are registered voters in Buffalo, New York. Defendants are the Erie County Board of Elections, Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr, Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis E. Ward, the New York State Department of Education, and the New York State Department of Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills. (Compl. (Docket No. 1).)
In their complaint, Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief nullifying the May 5, 2009, election for the City of Buffalo School Board. (Compl. ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs allege the election was tainted by the improper inclusion of a disqualified candidate, Fred Yellen, on absentee ballots. (Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.)
Pending before this Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants New York State Department of Education ("DOE") and DOE Commissioner Richard P. Mills (Docket No. 7). Also pending before this Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Erie County Board of Elections ("ECBOE") and ECBOE Commissioners Ralph M. Mohr and Dennis E. Ward (Docket No. 9). For the reasons stated below, the motion of Defendants DOE and Commissioner Mills is GRANTED. The motion of Defendants ECBOE and Commissioners Mohr and Ward is GRANTED.
In support of their motion, Defendants DOE and Mills have filed a memorandum of law (Docket No. 8) and a Reply Declaration (Docket No. 17).
In support of their motion, Defendants ECBOE, Mohr and Ward have filed a memorandum of law (Docket No. 11), the declaration of Defendant Mohr (Docket No. 13), two additional exhibits (Docket No. 13, Exs. 2 and 3), and a reply memorandum (Docket No. 18). Plaintiffs have filed a joint response to Defendants' motions (Docket No. 15).
A. Factual Background
Plaintiffs Samuel Radford III, Halimah Muhammad, and Renee McIntyre are all African-Americans registered to vote in Buffalo, New York. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-10.) Each of the Plaintiffs voted in the May 5, 2009 election for the Buffalo School Board. (Id.) Plaintiffs all voted for at-large candidate Bryon McIntyre. (Id.)
The DOE is a New York state agency, and Defendant Mills was, at the time of the School Board election, the Commissioner of the DOE. (See Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) According to the DOE, Defendant Mills was replaced as Commissioner by Carole F. Huxley as of July 1, 2009. (DOE's and Mills' Mot. Dismiss at 2 n. 1.)
All of the individual Defendants have been sued in their official capacities only. (Compl. ¶¶ 12, 13, 15.)
Between February 24 and April 7, 2009, candidates were eligible to file nominating petitions to run for positions on the Buffalo School Board. (Compl. ¶ 16.) At the conclusion of the nominating process, nine candidates, including Bryon McIntyre and Fred Yellen, had enough valid signatures for their names to appear on the ballot for the May 5, 2009 election. (Compl. ¶ 17.) However, the ECBOE later determined that Mr. Yellen's nominating petitions were invalid, and he was removed from the ballot on or about April 27, 2009. (Id.)
At or about the time Mr. Yellen was disqualified, the ECBOE sent more than 800 absentee ballots to voters who requested such ballots. (Compl. ¶ 18.) The absentee ballots still listed Mr. Yellen as a candidate. (Compl. ¶ 19.) The ECBOE did not take any corrective measures to recall or reissue the absentee ballots that incorrectly included Mr. Yellen. (Id.)
On May 5, 2009, Bryon McIntyre received the third highest number of votes for one of the three at-large School Board positions. (Compl. ¶ 20.) When all of the votes (except for the absentee ballots) were tabulated, Mr. McIntyre maintained a lead of 51 votes over the fourth-place candidate, Florence D. Johnson, and a lead of 58 votes over the fifth-place candidate, Catherine Collins. (Compl. ¶ 21.)
On May 13, 2009, Bryon McIntyre and his representatives were invited to the ECBOE offices to monitor the counting of the absentee ballots. (Compl. ¶ 23.) At that meeting, Mr. McIntyre and his representatives discovered that Fred Yellen had incorrectly been listed as a candidate on the absentee ballots. (Compl. ¶ 24.) Mr. McIntyre objected to the counting of the absentee ballots, but Defendants Mohr and Ward overruled his objection and continued to count the ballots. (Compl. ¶¶ 25-26.)
Fred Yellen received 135 votes from the absentee ballots. (Compl. ¶ 27.) After factoring in the absentee ballot votes, Bryon McIntyre was surpassed by Florence Johnson, and he ultimately ended up in fifth place. (Compl. ¶¶ 27-28.) The election results were ratified by the ECBOE. (Compl. ¶ 29.)
B. Procedural Background
On June 24, 2009, Plaintiffs brought this action seeking immediate injunctive and declaratory relief. Plaintiffs allege they suffered a deprivation of voting rights, and constitutional rights, by virtue of the improper inclusion of Mr. Yellen on the absentee ballots. They contend that this irregularity affected the outcome of the School Board election and/or invalidated the entire electoral process, causing them irreparable harm. (Compl. ¶¶ 33-34.)
Plaintiffs allege violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973, the New York State Constitution, and New York Election Law. (Compl. ¶¶ 35-96.) Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment rendering the May 5, 2009 School Board election null and void and nullifying the ratification of the election by the ECBOE. Plaintiffs also seek a permanent restraining order enjoining the DOE from further ratifying the election result. (Compl. at p. 20.)
Defendants DOE and Mills filed a motion to dismiss for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Docket No. 7.) Defendants ECBOE, Mohr and Ward filed a separate motion to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue this action, that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and that Plaintiffs are not entitled to injunctive relief.
A. MootnessGiven that Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief relating to an election that took place in 2009, this Court initially will address the question of whether Plaintiffs' claims are moot. Van Wie v. Pataki, 267 F.3d 109 (2d Cir. 2001). "A case becomes moot when interim relief or events have eradicated the effects of the defendant's act or omission, and there is no reasonable expectation that the alleged violation will recur."Id. at 113 (quoting Irish Lesbian and Gay Org. v. Giuliani, 143 F.3d 638, 647 (2d Cir. 1998)).
Plaintiffs are seeking nullification of a School Board election in which three at-large members were elected. Plaintiffs are not seeking compensatory or other damages. See Van Wie, 267 F.3d at 115 n. 4 (noting that "plaintiffs in election cases could avoid the potential for mootness by simply expressly pleading that should the election pass before the issuance of injunctive relief, nominal money damages are requested."). Further, the basis for Plaintiffs' claim is an irregularity specific to the May 5, 2009 election that is not likely to recur — i.e., the inclusion of a disqualified candidate on more than 800 absentee ballots.
However, according to the by-laws of the Buffalo City School District, at-large members of the School Board serve five-year terms. See Buffalo City School District By-Laws § 1.3, available at www.buffaloschools.org. As such, the candidates who were elected for the at-large School Board seats in the May 5, 2009 election presumably still are in office, and the challenged election still is affecting Plaintiffs. See www.buffaloschools.org (listing current Board members, including at-large member Florence D. Johnson). Moreover, although Bryon McIntyre (the candidate for whom Plaintiffs voted) ran in 2010 for one of the district-specific School Board positions, he did not prevail, and he is not currently serving on the School Board. See 2010 City of Buffalo School Board Election Results, Official Tally of Election Results, available at www.elections.erie.gov; see also www.buffaloschools.org. At this time, then, Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and permanent injunctive relief are not subject to dismissal for mootness.
The ECBOE and Commissioners Mohr and Ward argue that Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the election results. The standing requirement derives from the definition of judicial power under Article III of the Constitution, which extends only to cases or controversies. Kalsson v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 356 F.Supp.2d 371, 373 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (citing U.S. Const. art. III). Plaintiffs must have Article III standing in order for this Court to exercise subject matter jurisdiction over any of the claims they assert in this case. Crist v. Comm'n on Presidential Debates, 262 F.3d 193, 194 (2d Cir. 2001) ( per curiam) ("The United State[s] Constitution requires that anyone seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction over his complaint have standing to do so.").
In their reply declaration, Defendants DOE and Mills join the other Defendants in challenging Plaintiffs' standing. (Reply Decl. ¶ 8.)
To establish standing, Plaintiffs must first show they have suffered an "injury in fact" — i.e., an invasion of a legally protected interest that is concrete and particularized. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) (citing, inter alia, Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 756, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984)). The injury must be actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. Id. (citing Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155, 110 S.Ct. 1717, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990)). Second, Plaintiffs must show a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of: the injury must be fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant. Id. at 560-61. Third, it must be likely, and not merely speculative, that the injury will be "redressed by a favorable decision." Id. at 561 (quoting Simon v. Eastern Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 38, 96 S.Ct. 1917, 48 L.Ed.2d 450 (1976)). "At the pleading stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice, for on a motion to dismiss we `presum[e] that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim.'" Id. (quoting Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 889, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990)).
The relevant question here is whether the inclusion of an ineligible rival candidate on the absentee ballots caused a legally cognizable injury to voters who indisputably were able to cast their votes for their desired candidate. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and other courts have held that a voter does not have a legally cognizable injury when the voter's harm is merely derivative of harm suffered by a candidate him- or herself. In Crist v. Commission on Presidential Debates, the plaintiff, a voter, sought to invalidate the policy of the Commission on Presidential Debates ("CPD") limiting participation in CPD-sponsored presidential debates to candidates demonstrating a particular measure of popularity. 262 F.3d at 194. In dismissing for lack of standing, the court stated:
[A] voter fails to present an injury-in-fact when the alleged harm is abstract and widely shared or is only derivative of a harm experienced by a candidate.Id.; see also Berg v. Obama, 586 F.3d 234, 239 (3d Cir. 2009) (voter did not have standing to challenge Barack Obama's eligibility to run for President; "Berg was not directly injured because he could always support a candidate he believed was eligible"); Becker v. Federal Election Comm'n, 230 F.3d 381, 389-90 (1st Cir. 2000) (holding that voters supporting presidential candidate Ralph Nader lacked standing to challenge Nader's exclusion from a presidential debate); Gottlieb v. Federal Election Comm'n, 143 F.3d 618, 622 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (voters did not have standing to challenge the dismissal of an administrative claim alleging illegal receipt of federal matching funds by a candidate); Hollander v. McCain, 566 F.Supp.2d 63, 65, 68 (D.N.H. 2008) (holding that a voter lacked standing to challenge John McCain's eligibility to run for President; "To be sure, courts have held that a candidate or his political party has standing to challenge the inclusion of an allegedly ineligible rival on the ballot, on the theory that doing so hurts the candidate's or party's own chances of prevailing in the election. But that notion of `competitive standing' has never been extended to voters challenging the eligibility of a particular candidate.") (emphasis in original) (internal citations omitted).
Similarly, in analyzing so-called "competitor standing," the courts will look to whether the plaintiff is in the competitive arena of the party who allegedly has been given an unlawful advantage. In Gottlieb, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit stated that a plaintiff alleging "competitor standing" must "show that he personally competes in the same arena with the same party to whom the government has bestowed the assertedly illegal benefit." 143 F.3d at 621 (quoting In re United States Catholic Conference, 885 F.2d 1020, 1029 (2d Cir. 1989)). The Gottlieb court ruled that a political action committee-plaintiff, AmeriPAC, lacked standing to challenge the grant of federal matching funds to a rival candidate's campaign, because AmeriPAC had never been eligible to receive matching funds itself, and therefore was not a "competitor." Id. at 621;see also Becker, 230 F.3d at 386, 389-90 (ruling that presidential candidate Ralph Nader had standing, as a competitor, to challenge debate commission's policies, but that voters did not); Hollander, 566 F.Supp.2d at 68 (noting that a candidate or his political party has standing to challenge the inclusion of an ineligible rival on the ballot based on "competitor standing").
The court also ruled that four individual voters lacked standing to appeal the denial of an administrative challenge, because they had not suffered direct harm as a result of the grant. 143 F.3d at 621-22.
Additionally, in cases where there is a challenge to a political ballot's inclusion or exclusion of candidates, courts draw a distinction between the standing of voters whose preferred candidate has been improperly excluded from the ballot and the standing of voters who object to the inclusion of a rival candidate (as alleged here). "While the exclusion `directly imping[es] on the voters' ability to support' their chosen candidate — after all, they cannot vote for somebody who is not on the ballot — the mere inclusion of a rival does `not impede the voters from supporting the candidate of their choice' and thus does not cause the legally cognizable harm necessary for standing." Hollander, 566 F.Supp.2d at 68-69 (quoting Gottlieb, 143 F.3d at 622). "[V]oters have no standing to complain about the participation of an ineligible candidate in an election, even if it results in the siphoning of votes away from an eligible candidate they prefer." Id. at 69.
In light of this authority, this Court concludes that Plaintiffs have failed to assert a legally cognizable injury and therefore lack standing to pursue this action. First, Plaintiffs allege an injury that solely is derivative of the harm suffered by their preferred candidate, Bryon McIntyre. Mr. McIntyre himself might have had standing to challenge the validity of the election based on Mr. Yellen's inclusion on the ballot. But that standing does not flow to voters supporting Mr. McIntyre. Crist, 262 F.3d at 194. In the same vein, Plaintiffs, as voters, are in not the same competitive arena as the allegedly ineligible candidate, Mr. Yellen. As such, Plaintiffs cannot claim "competitor standing" here. Gottlieb, 143 F.3d at 621; Becker, 230 F.3d at 389-90.
Furthermore, Plaintiffs are challenging the inclusion of an ineligible rival candidate on the ballot, not the exclusion of their preferred candidate from the ballot. Plaintiffs were able to, and did, cast their votes for Mr. McIntyre. Any claimed injury based on the alleged siphoning of other people's votes away from Mr. McIntyre is too attenuated to provide the basis for standing. Gottlieb, 143 F.3d at 622; Hollander, 566 F.Supp.2d at 68-69.
Although Plaintiffs have the burden of establishing standing, they do not directly respond to Defendants' standing arguments in their papers. However, in the Complaint Plaintiffs describe their alleged injury as a dilution of their voting power as citizens and, more particularly, as African-Americans. (See Compl. ¶¶ 33, 37-38, 49-50, 56-57, 65-66, 75-77, 81-82, 87-88, 94-96.) The "vote dilution" theory is not a legally cognizable injury here. There is no dispute that Plaintiffs, and all others in the African-American voting community, were able to cast their votes for the at-large School Board candidates of their choice, including Mr. McIntyre. See Becker, 230 F.3d at 390 (because voters still could cast their votes for their candidate of choice, the alleged "harm" caused by voters' preferred candidate having a lower chance of being elected was not legally cognizable). Moreover, although Mr. McIntyre did not prevail, another African-American candidate, Florence Johnson, did. (Def. ECBOE, Mohr, and Ward's Mot. Dismiss. at 12.) While the Complaint makes the conclusory allegation the African-American community has been prevented from electing "the candidates of their choice," (see Compl. ¶¶ 38, 50), there is no allegation that Mr. McIntyre (and not Ms. Johnson) was the preferred candidate of the African-American community, as opposed to the preferred candidate just of Plaintiffs. Nor is there any specific allegation that the inclusion of Mr. Yellen on the ballot somehow disabled the African-American community from electing their preferred representatives. See Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 51, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 96 L.Ed.2d 25 (1986) (to prove vote dilution it must be shown, inter alia, that the minority group "usually" was deprived of the ability to elect their preferred candidate(s)). Under the circumstances alleged, Plaintiffs cannot claim to have suffered the injury of "vote dilution" in this election. Rather, the thrust of Plaintiffs' claimed injury is that their preferred candidate had a lower chance of being elected as a result of Defendants' conduct. This injury is not legally cognizable in federal court.
Even if Plaintiffs were permitted to rely on derivative standing based on the alleged harm suffered by Mr. McIntyre, it is uncertain whether Mr. McIntyre himself suffered a redressible injury. Defendants have submitted evidence of the tally results from the 800 challenged absentee ballots. On those 800 ballots, Mr. Yellen received 135 votes. (Decl. of Commissioner Mohr (Docket No. 13) ¶ 15.) Of those 135 voters, 42 also voted for Mr. McIntyre (each voter was permitted to vote for three at-large candidates). (Id. ¶ 16.) Additionally, 10 of those 135 voters voted for only two candidates, and therefore affirmatively chose not to vote for Mr. McIntyre, despite having the opportunity to do so. (Id. ¶ 17.) This leaves 83 votes that could have gone toward Mr. McIntyre had Mr. Yellen's name not been on the ballot. Mr. McIntyre, however, lost to Ms. Johnson by a total of 89 votes. (Id. ¶ 18.) Thus, even if all 83 voters on the disputed ballots had voted for Mr. McIntyre, he still would have been defeated.
Again, had Mr. McIntyre been improperly excluded from some or all of the ballots, his supporters might have had standing to challenge the election based on their inability to vote for their candidate of choice. The inclusion of an extra, ineligible candidate on the ballot, however, did not interfere with Plaintiffs' ability to vote for Mr. McIntyre. As such, Plaintiffs have not suffered a legally cognizable injury, and therefore do not have standing to challenge the election in federal court. This Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action.
IV. CONCLUSIONFor the foregoing reasons, this case must be dismissed. Accordingly, the motion of Defendants DOE and Mills to dismiss will be granted, and the motion of Defendants ECBOE, Mohr, and Ward to dismiss also will be granted.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, Defendant DOE and Mills' Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 7) is GRANTED.
FURTHER, that Defendant ECBOE, Mohr, and Ward's Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 9) is GRANTED.
FURTHER that Plaintiffs' Complaint is dismissed in its entirety, for the reasons stated above, and the Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.
Dated: September 25, 2011
Buffalo, New York2002 1130 POLICY By-Laws
SUBJECT: NUMBER OF MEMBERS AND TERMS OF OFFICEThe Board of Education of the Buffalo City School District shall consist of nine (9) members elected by the qualified voters of the School District at the annual election as prescribed by law.
The Board is a nine (9) member Board elected by District residents. Each member of the Board elected from the six (6) subdistricts shall serve for three (3) years. The term of office of each of three (3) members of the Board elected at-large shall be for five (5) years. The term of office of Board members shall all expire in the same year only once every 15 years (e.g., the years 2004, 2019, 2034, etc.).9 Member Board — Education Law Section 2552 Term of Office — Education Law Section 2553
BUFFALO PUBLIC SCHOOLS DISTRICTLouis Petrucci President Park District
"A person sits on the Buffalo Board of Education because they have a desire to serve their community. As a product of the Buffalo Public Schools, the Park District seat on the Buffalo Board of Education has afforded me the opportunity to give back to the district that played such a vital role in the formative stages of my life. I feel it is my obligation to help others," Petrucci is fond of saying.
Since his election to the Buffalo Board of Education in 2007, Petrucci has been a member of various committees and presently serves as the chair of the finance and operations committee. Petrucci has served on the Joint Schools Construction Board (JCSB), the inclusion committee of the JSCB, as chair of the student support committee, as board representative to the education committee of the Buffalo Common Council, as board representative to the Big Five, as a member of the political action committee for the NYS School Boards Association, as a representative to the Erie County BOCES finance committee, as a member of the policy committee, and is presently a member of the Masten field task force.
Petrucci began his schooling at the former School 67, which now houses the Discovery School, and completed his elementary and secondary education at the City Honors School. A 1983 graduate of CHS and the proud father of four daughters, two of Petrucci's daughters have graduated from his alma mater. A third daughter presently attends City Honors. His youngest is a proud member of the Discovery School family.
Petrucci has been happily married for twenty years to the former Shannon Gehen. They both are active in a variety of local organizations. Shannon formerly served on the South Buffalo Baseball Association board and on the board of the South Buffalo Community Association. Petrucci himself is involved with numerous community-based and not — for profit organizations. Petrucci is a member of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Advisory Committee and the Erie County Parks Advisory Board. He is president of the board for the Dog Ears Book Store and the Enlightenment Literary Arts Center. He was formerly active in youth soccer where he sat on the board of the South Buffalo Youth Soccer Association and also coached both indoor soccer and the girls Under 16 travel team. He has coached cross-country, track, and soccer at Saint Ambrose School. He is an at-large ember of the Erie County Democratic Party Executive Committee.
Petrucci is a member of the Local 2651 AFSCME Executive Board and Negotiating committee. He formerly served on the executive board of Council 35 and the Buffalo Chapter of the AFL-CIO. Petrucci also serves as treasurer for Can You Dig It, Inc., a local not-for profit organization dedicated to the betterment of Buffalo.etrucci began his school board experience by serving on the Saint Ambrose Catholic Academy school board. He served as chairman of the finance committee and board president. Petrucci credits much of his present knowledge to the experience he gained while serving on the Saint Ambrose board.
Rosalyn L. Taylor
Vice President of Executive Affairs East District
On January 26, 2011, Rosalyn Taylor was officially appointed to fill the East District seat for the Board of Education. She comes to this position with a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight after returning from the Buffalo Public Schools for over 37 years. Starting in the Buffalo district as an elementary education teacher, she has held a variety of administrative positions in her career such as Program Coordinator and Elementary Supervisor. At the time of her retirement, she was Assistant Superintendent for School Operations in the Instructional Department. In addition, she was instrumental in working as the instructional liaison to the one billion dollar School Reconstruction Project.
Rosalyn Taylor is a product of the Buffalo Public Schools, having graduated from School #31 and East High School. She attended the State University of New York College at Buffalo where she received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Masters of Science in Education. Later, she received a Masters in Administration and Supervision from Canisius College.
Mrs. Taylor is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She was also a member of the Buffalo Council of Supervisors and Administrators and past president of the Central Office Educators Association. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Bob Lanier Center and Oracle Charter School.
She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her contribution in the field of education and service in the community. In retirement, she continues to volunteer in the community and enjoys reading and traveling.
Rosalyn Taylor has been a resident in the East District for 30 years. Also, she is the loving mother of one son, Ryan Eugene, who is a police officer in Richmond, Virginia.
Mary Ruth Kapsiak, Ed.M, S.D.A
Central District Vice-President of Student Achievement
Mary Ruth Morrow-Kapsiak began her career as a NYNEX Corporation Customer Service Representative employed in Business Marketing. She served as Chairperson of the Upstate Union and served on the National Organizing Committee, and was a member of the National Coalition of Black Trade Unionist.
She has earned several degrees including a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication, University at Buffalo; Certificate of Completion, Orton-Gillingham Method for Reading from the Gow School in South Wales, N.Y; Masters of Science in Exceptional Education, from Buffalo State College; Masters of Science, Reading, Canisius College; and completed her certification in School District Administration certification from Canisius College.
She was a special education teacher and reading teacher at Community School #53 in Buffalo. Prior to her experiences at School #53, Mary Ruth was a reading teacher for grades pre-kindergarten through six at Broadway Village Elementary # 57 where she conducted assessments and evaluations while teaching the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading. In September of 2002, she worked as Adjunct Professor in Reading at Medaille College. Mrs. Kapsiak was appointed as Assistant Principal of Stanton Academy #31. In 2004, she was appointed Assistant Principal at Dr. Lydia T.Wright School of Excellence # 89. She ended her career with the Buffalo Public Schools as Supervisor of Elementary Education in 2006.
On May 1, 2007, Mary Ruth was elected to the Buffalo School Board as Central District Representative; July 2nd she was installed as Central District Representative, and on the same day she was elected President of the Buffalo School Board. Her professional associations include the following: Life Membership in the N.A.A.C.P, and serves on the Executive Committee of the N.A.A.C.P., Membership in Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society; Vice President of the Metro Buffalo Alliance of Black School Educators; Member of The National Association of Black School Educators; Member Phi Delta Kappa Professional Organization; Member Delta Kappa Gamma Society International; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Xi Epsilon Omega Chapter; Board of Directors, Women for Human Rights and Dignity; Past Board of Directors of the Buffalo Urban League, University at Buffalo Alumni Association; Canisius College Alumni, and State University of New York at Buffalo.
Her awards and honors are numerous and include: Worked at initiating the first group of The Coalition of 100 Black Women of Buffalo; N.A.A.C.P Received The N.A.A.C.P. Rufus B. Fraiser Human Relations Award 2005, Manchester Who's Who 2005 Who's Who of Women in the East, Western New York Educational Leadership Council, 2003; Apple for the Teacher Award, Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc.; Regional Leadership Development Training Institute in 2002, Inducted into the Uncrowned Queens in 2001 Children's Hospital Outstanding Volunteer Service to Children's Champs 1996; NAACP Membership Award, 1986; International Register of Profiles, Cambridge, England, 1985; International Register of Profiles, London, England, 1983; Marquis Who's Who publication 1983, Buffalo Urban League's Advisory Council 1983, National Kidney Foundation Award in 1983; Black Achievers in Industry Award `1979, and many more.
Mary Ruth attributes her accomplishments to God and a loving family. She is a member of St. John Baptist Church where she serves as a Trustee, Pastoral Ministry, Health Ministry, and contributes to the Sunday school. She resides in Buffalo with her husband Jim.
Mr. John Licata
Mr. Christopher Jacobs
Member-at-Large Vice-President of Executive Affairs
Chris Jacobs was elected to the Buffalo Board of Education in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. Chris currently serves as Vice-president for Student Achievement on the Board of Education. He has focused this Committee on raising the bar for student performance and increased accountability for results from students and staff. This year the elementary school children recorded unprecedented gains in state test scores for English and Math, English a 43% gain over the last two years and more than 90% in math. Chris is committed to building on these gains so they begin to translate into dramatically increased graduation rates in the District.
Chris has also served for four years on the Joint School Construction Board (JSCB) the entity charged with the $1 billion dollar renovation of all the Buffalo Schools. Chris also has served as Chair of the Finance and Operations Committee. Chris has been actively involved in educational endeavors for the last 15 years.
In 1995, he co-founded the BISON Scholarship Fund. BISON is a private charity that raises donations to provide tuition assistance to low/moderate income families who want to send their children to private grammar school. Since its inception BISON has raised over $3 million dollars in private donations and awarded over 10,000 scholarships to Buffalo Children. Chris also co-founded one of Buffalo's first charter schools. The South Buffalo Charter School (SBCS) was founded in 1994. Chris was a co-founder and the first President of the Board of Directors. SBCS is a full K-8 school with over 600 children and has well regarded as one of the best performing charter schools in New York State.
In terms of education, Chris' activities are principally volunteer-based. His full-time job is as a real estate developer in Buffalo. Chris owns Avalon Development. Avalon is a real estate development company the focuses principally in the redevelopment of older/underutilized buildings in downtown Buffalo. Founded in 2002, Avalon has grown from owning one building to now redeveloping and owning over seven buildings and 250,000 square feet of space in the city of Buffalo. He has received several awards for is preservation efforts and his commitment to a renaissance in downtown Buffalo. Chris received a law degree from SUNY Buffalo, a MBA from The American University in Washington, DC, and a BA from Boston College.
Mrs. Florence Johnson
Florence D. Johnson is the Immediate Past Chair of the National Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) for the National School Boards Association (NSBA). In the capacity of CUBE Chair, she served on the NSBA Board of Directors and continues to serve on the Executive Committee of CUBE.
Mrs. Johnson is a past president of the Board as well as a past Vice President for Student Achievement. She currently serves on the four standing committees of the Board and as the New York State School Boards Association Area I delegate to the Federal Relations Network and the State Legislative Network. Mrs. Johnson also serves as the Conference of Big Five School Districts' representative on the New York State Commissioner of Education School Board Members' Advisory Council.
Mrs. Johnson is Project Director for the Student Support Services Program, a TRIO federally-funded program grant at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. In this role, she monitors the academic progress of 200 students who meet the criteria for low-income and first-generation students attending a four-year college.
Listed in Who's Who in American Education, Mrs. Johnson is the recipient of numerous awards recognizing her work in that field. Most notably are the Education Award from the National Conference for Community Justice and the New York State Governor's Award for African-American Distinction. Mrs. Johnson was presented with two prestigious awards in 2002: the Diane Miller Award for Commitment in Public Education from the Erie County School Boards Association, and the Queen Smith National Award sponsored by the Council of Great City Schools.
Mrs. Johnson received a bachelor's degree in exceptional and elementary education from Buffalo State College and a master's degree in education from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Mrs. Johnson has been recognized for her activities in the Buffalo community as well as her membership of 46 years at Calvary Baptist Church, where she continues to serve in various capacities. She and her husband George have two sons, George Jr., and Isaac.
Mr. Ralph Hernandez
Ralph Hernandez, President and West District representative for the Buffalo Board of Education, has a distinguished record of service to his country and to his community. His entire adult life demonstrates responsiveness to others, both through his career choice and his volunteer activities. When elected to the Board of Education in May 2004, Mr. Hernandez made history in two impressive ways: He is the first Hispanic immigrant to be elected to the Board of Education, and the first school board member elected as a write-in candidate Born in Puerto Rico, he was raised in Spanish Harlem and graduated from P.S. #109 in Manhattan.
When the family moved to Buffalo in the mid 60's, Hernandez attended Grover Cleveland High School and, at the age of 17, he joined the US Marine Corps. He is a Viet Nam veteran and received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the DMZ of the Republic of Viet Nam. At the age of 19, Ralph Hernandez became the youngest sergeant in his battalion. He received two meritorious promotions as well as seven medals for distinguished service. He received an Honorable Discharge at the age of 21.
Hernandez is a Human Rights Investigator for the New York State Division of Human Rights. He has a BS degree in Social Sciences from Medaille College, and has earned 44 credit hours towards a Masters in Health Services Administration.
His volunteer commitments span 25 years of community service, including eight years as a Little League football coach. He has served in a position of responsibility with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Hispanics for Fair and Equitable Reapportionment, the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, the Erie County Cultural Advisory Committee, and the Sheehan Memorial Hospital Foundation Board. He is Chairman of the Bilingual Educational Advisory Committee, and a member of the Parents Advisory Board at School #18. Ralph Hernandez has devoted his time to young people for many years, having served as a substitute teacher, coach and mentor. He is also the host of El Barrio, a weekly television program produced by WKBW Channel 7. Mr. Hernandez is married, and his three sons attended Buffalo public schools. His grandson, Christian, attends Campus West.
Jason M. McCarthy
716-572-9560 Jay McCarthy serves as the North District member of the Buffalo School Board. Jay was elected in May 2010 on a platform of creating neighborhood schools through strong community activism. His motivation in running was that seeing too many of his friends and members of the community leave Buffalo because of the schools and quality of life. Jay grew up in Buffalo and believes in the power of a solid public school system to keep the best and brightest residents wanting to live and work in the City.
Jay currently serves on the Joint Schools Construction Board which is charged with the ongoing $1 Billion reconstruction effort of the various Buffalo Schools. He recently started a campaign on the Board to increase awareness of student nutrition. Jay believes we should be helping to educate our students on how and what to eat so that they can live healthier lives which will help to reduce childhood obesity while increasing student awareness and performance during the school day.
Jay also conceptualized and founded Buffalo Micro Parks, whose mission it is to transform previously underutilized or abandoned areas of Buffalo's waterfront into activity focused and broadly appealing public parks in order to spark enthusiasm, encourage civic involvement, secure long term sustainability and promote commitment and investment in our urban waterfront environment. To that end, he also started BuffOLA, a non-profit, that with Jay's leadership and a committed Board of Directors developed "The Barkyard," an Off-Leash Area which is the first Buffalo "micro park." It has attracted more than 2000 users and their canine companions a week during peak season! Jay was instrumental in assisting in the raising and securing of funds necessary to build the new dog park, which is on the waterfront in LaSalle Park.
Jay is a graduate of St Joseph's Collegiate Institute and the University at Buffalo. In between his activism and work as a member of the school board, Jay can be found working at Hutch's Restaurant. He lives in North Buffalo in the same neighborhood he grew up in, with his wife, Betsy Kreiner McCarthy and their daughter Elise.
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• Kids Korner2010 City of Buffalo School Board Election Results Official Tally of Election Results As of May 14, 2010 CENTRAL SUBDISTRICT Absentee Votes Are Included in the Official Results 30 OF 30 DISTRICTS REPORTING 100% 1,142 Votes east out of 23,800 4,80% CANDIDATE SUBDISTRICT TOTAL VOTES % OF VOTES Mary Ruth Kapsiak CENTRAL 662 57.97% Bryon J. McIntyre CENTRAL 451 39.49% Blank, Void and Scattering CENTRAL 29 2.54%