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Adrian Harris

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Adrian Harris
Adrian Harris.jpeg
Former candidate for
Board member, Buffalo Board of Education, At-large
Elections and appointments
Last electionMay 6, 2014
Term limitsN/A
High schoolSouthside High School
Bachelor'sState University of New York at Brockport
Master'sGrand Canyon University
ProfessionTeacher's aide
Campaign website
Adrian Harris campaign logo
Adrian Harris was a candidate for an at-large seat on the Buffalo school board in New York. He lost the general election on May 6, 2014 to incumbent Barbara Seals Nevergold and challengers Larry Quinn and Patricia B. Pierce. Harris also ran unsuccessfully for the Park Subdistrict seat on the school board against Carl P. Paladino on May 7, 2013.


Adrian Harris is a resident of Buffalo, New York. Harris graduated from Southside High School before earning his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the State University of New York at Brockport and his master's degree in special education from Grand Canyon University.[1] He is employed as a teacher's aide in the Lancaster Central School District and has a child enrolled at South Park High School in the Buffalo school system.[2][3]



See also: Buffalo Public Schools elections (2014)


Adrian Harris lost to incumbent Barbara Seals Nevergold and newcomers Larry Quinn and Patricia B. Pierce for the three at-large seats in the general election on May 6, 2014. Candidates Bryon J. McIntyre and Daniel Rockwitz Reynolds were removed from the ballot after they did not meet the petition signature requirements.[4]


Buffalo Public Schools, At-Large General Election, 5-year term, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngLarry Quinn 16.1% 8,806
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngPatricia B. Pierce 14.7% 8,061
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngBarbara Seals Nevergold Incumbent 13.6% 7,449
     Nonpartisan Bernie Tolbert 11.5% 6,298
     Nonpartisan John Licata Incumbent 9% 4,930
     Nonpartisan Samuel P. Davis 7.9% 4,334
     Nonpartisan Sergio Rodriguez 6.3% 3,447
     Nonpartisan Gizelle Stokes 5.6% 3,059
     Nonpartisan Ralph R. Hernandez 5% 2,733
     Nonpartisan Wendy Mistretta 4.4% 2,414
     Nonpartisan Stephon Wright 2.3% 1,242
     Nonpartisan Adrian Harris 1.9% 1,066
     Nonpartisan Stephen Buccilli 1.7% 936
Total Votes 54,775
Source: Erie County, NY - Board of Elections, "Election Results Archive," accessed June 11, 2014


Harris reported $180.00 in contributions and $319.38 in expenditures to the Erie County Board of Elections, which left his campaign with $139.38 in debt. Harris contributed a total of $60.00 to his own campaign.[5]


Harris did not receive any official endorsements for his campaign.


Buffalo Public Schools, Park Subdistrict General Election, 3-year term, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngCarl P. Paladino 79.3% 2,704
     Nonpartisan Adrian Harris 20.7% 706
Total Votes 3,410
Source: Erie County, NY - Board of Elections, "Election Results Archive," accessed March 26, 2014

Campaign themes


In response to a survey published by The Buffalo News, Harris answered several questions outlining his campaign themes, preferred education reforms and priorities.

Cite an example of a school program (here or elsewhere) that you think should be replicated in Buffalo:

Cincinnati School District has implemented proven instructional approaches while nurturing a culture in which administrators, teachers, parents, and community groups closely communicate and work together as teams. Has improved both test scores and graduation rates since 2003.

Describe two or three specific actions the district should take to help close the projected $50 million deficit for 2014-15:

1) Bring all unions into serious negotiations to settle wage and benefit issues. 2) Request more financial backing from the City of Buffalo. 3) Have the city comptroller do a top to bottom audit of the school system to identify waste.

List the three most important things you want to accomplish if you are elected:

Advance the idea of shared responsibility for problems and solutions. Increase Career & Technical Educational that will lead to immediate employment or the need for limited training after high school. Promote the neighborhood school as a necessary element in the success of that community, and the education of that community's children.[6]

The Buffalo News survey, (2014)[1]

Harris provided another overview of his campaign priorities in an interview with Buffalo Rising:

Why are you motivated to run for school board?

I’m someone who believes that when regular individuals get involved then things will improve and I’m truly a regular individual. I’m not trying to use this as political stepping stone, wanting to be a judge or get bumped up to the County Legislature. I don’t have a political or ideological agenda that’s divisive and destructive. I’ve worked with at risk youth for 30 years in capacities developing and implementing educational programming. I have a Master’s Degree in Special Education and presently work in the Lancaster Central School District. I have an in depth understanding of the students who have the most challenging academic needs. I also have a son who attends a Buffalo public high school; I’m a homeowner and longtime resident of the City of Buffalo. I am invested in public education and its success.

Because of the Common Core, which the school board has been almost silent about, I realize that I have to run. It’s been implemented badly. There has been no training and no resources allocated to carry out the implementation. Excessive test taking hurts some kids, especially urban kids who come from non-structured, non-disciplined contexts, because good test taking skills require structure and discipline.


What is your number one policy priority?

Improving CTE Career & Technical Education programs. Right now the vocational programs that do exist are inaccessible and underrepresented. We need technology centers that teach trades again. We need whole campuses that are specialized. Let’s breed creativity by getting students with similar interests together at the same campuses. I’m a proponent of having a Career & Technical Education center in areas of the city that are accessible and I absolutely believe one should be in Park district (South Buffalo).


What is your assessment of Dr. Pamela Brown?

It’s evolving. There is a disconnect between her and the district’s stakeholders, particularly with the parent group which I have said in the past I disapprove off. She is obviously trying to turn that around now, improving her accessibility to the community – but we need to really feel it, which we don’t right now. In public, Dr. Brown comes off as a very mild mannered, professional person, but I’m told by people who I trust, that behind closed doors she can be mean spirited, and people see that as disingenuous. I know that some people want to be patted on the back for waking up in the morning, but she needs to exude a more collaborative demeanor and promote that atmosphere to the people around her. She needs to inspire people, not seem above them.

Will you be voting to extend Dr. Brown’s contract beyond its 3-year term?

I really can’t say whether or not her contract should be extended without having access to a lot more information.


How do you deal with truancy and other “at-home” issues?

You can’t just use hard discipline with kids and expect them to do what you want. They will rebel and do what they want. They will act like they don’t care, and they will see you as an adversary. Instead, you need to get to the core of the issue, which requires that you understand their situation so that you can figure out what motivates them. It’s far more productive to engage with students in a respectful way built on trust.

Do you support charter schools?

I don’t support turning more Buffalo Schools into charter schools. When I ran last time, I was perceived as very anti-charter. I’m not so anti-charter, I’m just concerned that their basis of success is entirely rooted in the socio-economics of the students they accept and limited focus on special needs students. For instance, look at Tapestry. They have a very strong elementary school program, but a weak high school program. That’s because many of their elementary students then go to other public high schools or private schools. So in terms of their success it’s less to do with structure and more to do with clientele.

There are some charters, like Applied Technologies and Enterprise, that have strong leadership that’s very supportive of the staff and they have diverse student bodies and high standards for teachers. I am very supportive of those charter schools – but you need to have strong, inspired leadership, that’s the key.

Do you support vouchers?

No. Taxes are too high. Where are we going to get the money? This state has been under funding education for decades. Even if we could afford it, how would we pay long term BPS pension costs that the charters don’t have because they’ve only been around for the last 5 years or so? There are also legal issues that might be involved. The person in this community that promotes vouchers uses Louisiana as an example of it working, but the program was declared unconstitutional by their highest state court and 40 million dollars came from other state resources. It’s only been around for three years, so to call it a success when there’s no information proving that is misleading at best. They never use Milwaukee as an example, because of the so, so results. The city has used a combination of charter schools and vouchers for years, but those initiatives have provided the same academic results as traditional public schools.

Do you support tuition tax credits?

Again, where do we get the money? It sounds nice if it’s coming from the State, but where does the state get the money? When I was sending my son to Canisius, I would have liked to get back that tuition, but how could we possibly afford it? It would have been nice to have a tax credit for some of the other expenses, like books, uniforms, and i-pads that they required – but tuition? Parents send their kids to private schools because they want their kids to be safe, so I’m sympathetic to the idea, but I don’t see how it’s affordable.

Do you support neighborhood schools?

Yes, absolutely. If you want to attend the school that is closest to where you live, then you should be able to attend. There will still be busing, the demographics of the city aren’t conducive to having schools for everyone to walk to. If you want to attend a school outside of your neighborhood fine, but we shouldn’t be forcing kids on buses for 3 hours a day, if there’s a school that they want to go to right down the street. Also having that type of educational certainty will help build stronger neighborhoods and increase Buffalo’s tax base. Make that school strong by being part of the community and it will become a catalyst for the entire area.[6]

Buffalo Rising interview, (2014)[7]

What was at stake?

The three at-large seats on the school board were up for election on May 6, 2014. Issues in the race included Superintendent Pamela Brown's future with the district and hostility between board member Carl P. Paladino and Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold. Strife within the school district largely revolved around the possibility of a mayoral takeover, the departure and subsequent rehiring of controversial consultant Mary Guinn and the lack of the necessary legal credentials for two top officials in the district administration. After the May 2014 election resulted in Paladino's faction winning a governing majority on the board, Superintendent Brown announced her intention to resign.[8]


Issues in the election

Superintendent Pamela Brown

Significant divisions arose within the Buffalo Board of Education since the election of former gubernatorial candidate and local businessman Carl P. Paladino in 2013. In that race, Paladino campaigned for the removal of incumbent board members and the dismissal of the district's top administrators, including Superintendent Pamela Brown.[9] Since joining the board, Paladino has continued to call for Superintendent Brown's resignation or firing, stating that she is "obviously incapable."[10][11] In September 2013, the board ruled in a 5-4 decision to keep the superintendent in place.[12] Since Brown supporter and Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold was up for re-election, NPR journalist Mike Desmond suggested that, "[...] the approaching School Board elections will likely determine her future as Buffalo Schools Superintendent."[13] Superintendent Brown announced her intention to resign after her opponents on the board won the governing majority following the election of Larry Quinn and Patricia B. Pierce.[8]

The following table lists the stated position of each school board candidate on keeping Superintendent Brown:[1]

Positions on Superintendent Brown
Candidate Position
Barbara Seals Nevergold Retain
John Licata Terminate
Adrian Harris Terminate
Wendy Mistretta Terminate
Larry Quinn Terminate
Sergio Rodriguez Terminate
Bernie Tolbert[14] Terminate
Stephon Wright Retain
Stephen Buccilli Terminate
Patricia B. Pierce Terminate
Ralph R. Hernandez N/A
Samuel P. Davis Retain
Gizelle Stokes Retain
Board infighting

On October 23, 2013, board member Carl P. Paladino filed an unsuccessful motion to dismiss Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold from her leadership position. He later filed an appeal with the New York State Education Department and Commissioner of Education John King, claiming that she is unfit to meet the responsibilities of the position and stating that she had allowed board meeting participants to attack him verbally.[15] Paladino then filed a second petition with Commissioner King, which argued that Nevergold's position on the board was illegitimate due to her not running for the seat in the May 2013 election after being appointed to the board. Board member John Licata made a successful resolution to hire legal counsel for Nevergold's defense.[16] Local resident Joan Simmons filed a petition with the state agency requesting Paladino's removal from the board on the basis that he is disruptive and prevents the board from carrying out its duties.[17]

On April 4, 2014, Commissioner King rejected both of Paladino's petitions "on procedural grounds" and due to a lack of evidence.[18] However, Commissioner King's ruling on Paladino's second petition left open the possibility that Nevergold violated state law by not running for re-election in the May 2013 election. After hearing the decision, Paladino announced that he would pursue legal action against Nevergold in the New York State Supreme Court.[19] On May 19, 2014, Erie County Supreme Court Judge Tracey A. Bannister rejected Paladino's argument on the grounds that Nevergold was only required by law to run in the first election following her appointment for the type of seat she held, an at-large seat. The 2014 election was the first election for at-large seats following her appointment. Judge Bannister also noted that the statute of limitations for the case had passed and that Paladino did not have the legal right to re-litigate a decision already made by Commissioner King.[20]

Common Core

Buffalo school board members and candidates weighed in with a range of different opinions on the Common Core education reforms implemented in the school district. In October 2013, board member James Sampson wrote an opinion piece for The Buffalo News that defended the reforms and praised both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner of Education John King for resisting public pressure to delay or dismantle Common Core standards.[21] Parents in Buffalo and neighboring school districts voiced concerns about both Common Core and policies that require students who opt-out from the program's standardized testing to sit and wait silently during the testing period with no other activities available to them.[22]

Superintendent Pamela Brown provided testimony to the New York State Senate Education Committee on October 16, 2013, to discuss academic performance in Buffalo Public Schools. During this testimony, she called for full implementation of Common Core but requested additional guidance and data resources from the New York State Education Department to ensure effective implementation.[23] In a "listening tour" discussion held at the Buffalo Public Library on March 31, 2014, Superintendent Brown insisted that the district would continue to implement the Common Core standards. She added that the district would not allow students to officially opt-out from testing, but acknowledged that students could still refuse to fill out the standardized tests provided to them.[24]

The following table lists the stated position of each school board candidate on Common Core and the district's implementation of it:[1]

Positions on Common Core
Candidate Position on Common Core Position on implementation
Barbara Seals Nevergold Oppose Inadequate
John Licata Oppose Inadequate
Adrian Harris Oppose Inadequate
Wendy Mistretta Oppose Inadequate
Larry Quinn Support Inadequate
Sergio Rodriguez Support Inadequate
Bernie Tolbert Support Inadequate
Stephon Wright Oppose Inadequate
Stephen Buccilli Support Inadequate
Patricia B. Pierce Support Inadequate
Ralph R. Hernandez N/A N/A
Samuel P. Davis Oppose Inadequate
Gizelle Stokes Support Inadequate

Issues in the district

Mayoral takeover

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown announced in February 2014 that he is considering taking control of Buffalo Public Schools. Brown refrained from taking a position on the issue of mayoral control during his 2013 bid for re-election, but suggested that the district's academic and financial struggles have made it clear that, "[...] the model that exists isn’t working, and people are looking for options and people are looking for hope."[25] Until the 1970s, the Buffalo Board of Education was separated from the school district and appointed by the mayor. In later remarks, Mayor Brown emphasized that he would only pursue mayoral control of the district if the plan received significant community support. Replacing the elected board with an appointed board would require a change in state law by the New York State Legislature, which Mayor Brown has not formally requested.[26]

Guinn hiring

In March 2013, consultant Mary Guinn and her firm, Cross and Joftus, were hired to provide leadership coaching to top district officials and to assist with the implementation of a central office reorganization plan. The initial three-month contract, which was paid with private grant money, also appointed Guinn to the temporary position of interim deputy superintendent. However, the district did not hire a permanent deputy superintendent and instead agreed to a one-year contract with Cross and Joftus at the additional cost of $432,000.[27] Board members questioned the appropriateness of Guinn's contract and involvement with payroll, internal communications and leadership meetings. Guinn's firm cancelled the consulting contract on October 8, 2013 following board efforts to remove her from the position.[28]

During the board's closed session meeting on February 26, 2014, Superintendent Brown recommended that the board hire Guinn to fill the deputy superintendent position. The board voted 5-3 to hire Guinn for a 90-day period, with board member Jason M. McCarthy absent from the meeting.[29] An article from The Buffalo News journalist Tiffany Lankes indicated that Superintendent Brown may have intended since Guinn's October 2013 departure to bring her back to fill the position, despite Brown denying such rumors at the time. Guinn applied with the New York State Education Department for the credentials necessary to fill the position on October 16, 2013, which she received on February 14, 2014. An official with HealthNow, which managed the district's deputy superintendent candidate search, stated that the organization felt "a level of frustration" with the district's involvement in the process and concluded its search after, "[...] it became apparent that the way we had approached the search was not needed."[28]

Following Guinn's appointment, several board members voiced their displeasure with the decision. McCarthy stated that he would have voted against her appointment if he were present at the meeting. He added that he felt Superintendent Brown's unexpected request and the board vote were purposefully conducted in his absence in order to ensure Guinn's appointment. During interviews with The Buffalo News, board members James Sampson and Carl P. Paladino denounced the vote as "disrespectful" and "sinful," respectively.[30]

Uncertified administrators

On March 18, 2014, two Buffalo district administrators hired by Superintendent Brown were revealed to lack the necessary legal credentials to serve in their positions. Curriculum, assessment and instruction chief Yamilette Williams and school leadership chief Faith Morrison Alexander were both hired during the summer of 2013 with only conditional certificates to serve as school principals, not district administrators. District human resources administrator Darren J. Brown acknowledged that his office had failed to ensure that the two officials had obtained their proper certifications and stated that the school district faced legal liability issues as a result.[31]

Superintendent Brown announced on March 20, 2014 that she had put both officials on unpaid leave, but board members Carl P. Paladino and John Licata insisted that neither Williams nor Alexander were actually still employed by the district due to the violation of their contracts. Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold placed the blame for the oversight on the district's human resources department and indicated that she was misled regarding their certifications.[32] On March 25, 2014, Paladino announced that he had located additional district officials who lacked the necessary credentials for their positions at the time of their hiring, including Bennett High School Principal Terry Ross and Education Partnership Organization Superintendent Tamara Branch.[33]

Superintendent Brown attempted to retain Yamilette Williams and Faith Morrison Alexander as interns at an annual salary of $130,000 each, but the school board rejected her proposal and voted unanimously to fire both officials on April 2, 2014. Following the vote, Brown denied knowing that either administrator had lacked the proper credentials for their position, arguing, "At the time they were hired, it was my understanding that whatever they needed to have in order to take those positions, that they had it. It did not come to my attention that they did not have the proper certification until just recently."[34]

About the district

See also: Buffalo Public Schools, New York
Buffalo Public Schools is located in Erie County, New York
Buffalo Public Schools is located in Erie County, New York. The county seat of Erie County is Buffalo. Erie County is home to 919,086 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau.[35] Buffalo is the second-largest school district in New York, serving 32,723 students during the 2011-2012 school year.[36]


Buffalo underperformed in comparison to the rest of New York in terms of higher education achievement in 2012. The United States Census Bureau found that 23.4 percent of Buffalo residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 32.8 percent for New York as a whole. The median household income in Buffalo was $30,502 compared to $57,683 for the state of New York. The poverty rate in Buffalo was 30.1 percent compared to 14.9 percent for the entire state.[37]

Racial Demographics, 2010[37]
Race Buffalo (%) New York (%)
White 50.4 65.7
Black or African American 38.6 15.9
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.8 0.6
Asian 3.2 7.3
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.0 0.0
Two or More Races 3.1 3.0
Hispanic or Latino 10.5 17.6

2013 Party Affiliation, Erie County[38]
Party Registered Voters  % of Total
Democratic 301,873 49.49
Republican 157,704 25.86
Independent 28,996 4.75
Constitution 13,067 2.14
Working Families 3,175 0.52
Green 1,488 0.24
Other 365 0.07
Unaffiliated 103,240 16.93

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one- or two-tenths off from being exactly 100 percent.[39] This Ballotpedia page provides a more detailed explanation of how the Census Bureau handles race and ethnicity in its surveys.

Recent news

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See also

External links

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Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 The Buffalo News, "Meet the candidates," accessed April 29, 2014
  2. Facebook, "About," accessed April 7, 2014
  3. The Buffalo News, "School Board candidates begin seeking petition signatures," February 25, 2014
  4. The Buffalo News, "Two knocked off Buffalo School Board ballot," April 23, 2014
  5. The Buffalo News, "School board financial disclosures," April 12, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. Buffalo Rising, "Adrian Harris is running for school board," February 24, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Buffalo News, "Incoming School Board majority wants search for interim superintendent to begin ‘immediately’," June 3, 2014
  9. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Paladino to launch major push to remove school board incumbents," January 24, 2013
  10. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Paladino wins, vows to shake up school district," May 8, 2013
  11. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Seeking changes, Paladino takes school board seat," July 10, 2013
  12. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Board votes to keep Superintendent Brown," September 26, 2013
  13. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Superintendent Brown offers job assessment," March 6, 2014
  14. The Buffalo News, "Used to making tough decisions, board candidate Tolbert reluctantly loses confidence in Buffalo school chief," May 1, 2014
  15. WKBW - ABC 7, "Buffalo Board of Education Member Wants President Nevergold Out," November 9, 2013
  16. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Buffalo District hires lawyer for school board president," November 21, 2013
  17. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Paladino faces action seeking his removal from school board," January 16, 2014
  18. The Buffalo News, "Commissioner King's ruling on Paladino's petition to oust Nevergold," April 5, 2014
  19. The Buffalo News, "State denies Paladino’s bid to unseat board president," April 5, 2014
  20. The Buffalo News, "The written ruling dismissing Paladino's bid to unseat Nevergold," May 20, 2014
  21. The Buffalo News, "Another Voice: Education commissioner has it right on Common Core standards," October 29, 2013
  22. The Buffalo News, "Why should kids just ‘sit and stare’? as parents, school officials debate Common Core testing," March 18, 2014
  23. New York State Senate, "Testimony, Dr. Pamela C. Brown, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent," October 16, 2013
  24. Time Warner Cable News, "Superintendent says Common Core curriculum not going anywhere," March 31, 2014
  25. The Buffalo News, "Mayor considers taking control of Buffalo school district," February 26, 2014
  26. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Mayor discusses possible control of Buffalo School District," February 27, 2014
  27. The Buffalo News, "Fate of consultant in Buffalo School Board’s hands as her compensation, authority are questioned," September 24, 2013
  28. 28.0 28.1 The Buffalo News, "Seed sown last fall for Guinn to be rehired by school district, state records show," March 6, 2014
  29. The Buffalo News, "Guinn’s hiring expected to create more divisiveness on School Board," February 27, 2014
  30. The Buffalo News, "Board members call Guinn's appointment "deceptive," "disrespectful" and "sinful"," February 28, 2014
  31. The Buffalo News, "Two top Buffalo school district officials lack state certifications," March 19, 2014
  32. The Buffalo News, "Uncertified Buffalo school administrators no longer employed by district," March 22, 2014
  33. WBFO 88.7: NPR News & More, "Paladino uncovers more school district employees without proper credentials," March 25, 2014
  34. The Buffalo News, "Buffalo School Board votes overwhelmingly to fire 2 top administrators," April 3, 2014
  35. United States Census Bureau, "Erie County, New York," accessed March 26, 2014
  36. National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed April 22, 2014
  37. 37.0 37.1 United States Census Bureau, "Buffalo (city), New York," accessed March 26, 2014
  38. New York State Board of Elections, "NYS Voter Enrollment by County, Party Affiliation and Status - Voters Registered as of November 01, 2013," accessed March 26, 2014
  39. United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014