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Adrian F. Harris: Buffalo School Board Candidate, Park District

Adrian F. Harris

Buffalo School Board Candidate, Park District

It would be unfair to label Adrian Harris as “the other guy” running for the Park District seat on the Buffalo Board of Education. After all, Harris declared his candidacy before millionaire developer Carl Paladino announced that he intended to run for that seat and support a slate of candidates in other districts. “I like to say that Paladino is running against me,” Harris said last week, during a break from walking South Buffalo nieghborhoods to collect signatures on his nominating petition.

Why are you running for school board?

Because I see the true problems with public education as a failure to get all sides together —administration, parents, teachers, and students—in a meaningful dialog that will produce positive results. There’s to much finger-pointing and blame going around. As we have seen from our government leaders, especially at the federal level, this blame game never produces meaningful results and is counterproductive. It also waste time and resources that can be used on other educational initiatives. Education at its roots is collaborative, not singular.

What’s your background, and how does it qualify you for the position?

Most importantly I have the formal education. I have masters degree in special education and work daily in a classroom setting. I also have a son who attends a public school, and I’m very involved in his education. I also worked for Heritage Centers, developing and implementing educational/recreational programs for individuals with developmental disabilities. One program, Cultural Enrichment, was designed by me to service “at risk” children and young adults in the City of Buffalo, giving them a look beyond their own environments. I feel the experience I have in educating children/young adults at both the private/public levels has given me an understanding of the individuals the Buffalo Public Schools service.

Name three changes to the Buffalo public schools that you think are both possible and desirable, and why.

1) I would push to get a contract done with the teachers union, because I feel this would immediately create a positive improvement the school environment where teachers will feel respected and appreciated. This, in turn, I believe will flow down to their students and other school personnel.

2) There should be way to increase daily attendance and there should be a plan put in place to reach that goal. Whether it’s picking up kids on a later bus run, calling parents, or bringing back attendance teachers or truant officers, every remedy should be exhausted. You get a kid to school and they will learn through osmosis.

3) I would also increase vocational training programs and make them more accessible to all City of Buffalo students. We cannot give young adults a high school diploma when we know it’s not enough to sustain them economically long-term. They need real employment skills, and college at a 58 percent graduation rate, and 70 percent not working in the field they graduate in, is not the answer for all students. Pushing them into that arena is just prolonging their economic inevitability.

How do you hope to win, given your opponent’s resources and high profile?

I hope to win by meeting the voting public going door to door. I’m speaking with them about their concerns and asking for their suggestions. I’ve meet with over 500 people so far in my school district and this I feel will give people an opportunity to decide who’ll a better representative

I also hope the voters will be able to understand the difference between a politician and an educator. Someone who complains about everything belittles others and exaggerates the issues for his own benefit, versus someone who sees everyone as a part of the solution and is willing to bring people together for the common good. Also, I’m someone who knows the issues of student achievement are not as simple as some contend; if they were simple, they would already be nonexistent.

Tell us a little about your mountain-climbing achievements.

I’ve been mountain hiking/climbing since 1995 and it’s been a life-changing endeavor. It’s become who I am, not what I do. I started with a goal of ascending the highest points of each state in the lower 48, and I’ve completed 45. I’ve climbed the highest mountains already—Mt. Rainier in Washington, Mt. Hood in Oregon, Mt. Whitney in California. This summer I’ll complete the last three, which are Granite Peak in Montana, Gannett Peak in Wyoming, and Kings Peak in Utah. There have been only 441 climbers who have accomplished this feat, and no one of African-American descent, so it has a heightened significance. From there I hope to complete Mt. Denali (Mount McKinley) in Alaska and Mt. Mauna Kea in Hawaii in the next couple of years to complete all 50 states.

When people ask me why I climb, I tell them nothing will challenge you more, physically or mentally, than mountain-climbing, and the social experiences along the way have been life-enhancing.

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