Only 2 of 6 school board seats contested

Board of Education seats in Buffalo find few takers among prospective candidates

Only two of six district seats will be contested in this year’s elections for the Buffalo Board of Education. And they aren’t the two left open by exiting members Louis Petrucci and Hope Jay, the current Park and North district representatives.

The deadline to file nominating petitions with the Erie County Board of Elections was May 31; the deadline to accept a spot on the ballot was last Friday. Ten nominees filed and all of them accepted their nominations. 

Theresa Drillings-Schuta, former principal of South Park High School who retired in 2020, is running unopposed in the Park District. 

Cindi McEachon, chief executive officer of Peaceprints, a nonprofit that provides services to help former prisoners re-enter society, is running unopposed in the North District.


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Incumbents are running for reelection in the other four districts, but only two have challengers.

Jennifer Mecozzi — elected in 2019 — faces three challengers in the West District: 

  • Cesar Cabrera, who spent 10 years in workforce development with the state labor department, among other government positions.
  • Mustafa Abdo, a city building inspector.
  • Le’Candice Durham, a 311 complaint clerk for the city. Durham ran for mayor in last year’s Democratic primary, a candidacy regarded as an effort to pull votes from Mayor Byron Brown’s principal challenger, India Walton. Durham got 729 votes and Walton beat Brown in the primary. 

Paulette Woods, elected as Central District representative in 2016, is running for a third term. She faces one challenger, Kelly Craig, a Buffalo police lieutenant and school resource officer

Kathy Evans-Brown, first elected in 2019, is running unopposed in the East District. Also running unopposed is the Ferry District’s longtime representative, Sharon Belton-Cottman, who took office in 2010. 

Four of the 10 candidates — Durham, Cabrera, Woods and Craig — have had the validity of their nominating petitions challenged by opponents. The county’s two elections commissioners have not set a date to rule on those objections, according to an elections board spokesperson.

Election winners earn a three-year term and take office in January. The position pays $15,000 a year.

The board’s three other seats – at large members elected citywide for a five-year term – are up for re-election in 2024.

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Only eight candidates ran the last time the six district seats were up for election in 2019. The two contested races were won by Petrucci and Evans-Brown. Across the city, just 7,718 voters — 5 percent of eligible voters — cast ballots for district representatives.

That was before school board elections were moved from May to November, a change enacted by the state Legislature last year in order to increase voter participation and save the county the cost of administering an extra election.

This year’s elections coincide with the race for governor. In 2018, the last governor’s race, nearly 72,000 city voters turned out to the polls.