With the Niagara-Wheatfield School Board election set to take place on Tuesday, June 9, candidates were given the opportunity to briefly speak to residents about their platforms and qualifications. In total, there are five candidates looking to fill three seats. Two of those seats are held by incumbents Darren Sneed and Jason Myers who are seeking reelection. The third is being vacated by board member Gina Terbot who will not seek reelection after serving on the board for six years.
Forcucci has spent over 32 years in the Niagara Falls City School District where he worked as a teacher, dean of students at Niagara Falls High School, and also as NFHS’s athletic director before his retirement.
Forcucci said that his work as dean of students allowed him to work with a very diverse population and that from his experience he learned to work with students dealing with difficult personal situations. He always strived to get them on the right path.
On his decision to run, Forcucci said, “I feel that it is important to be a part of the community, to be involved in the schools, to get into the schools and see the programming and teaching – all the things that are working well and develop a relationship with our stakeholders that, if things are not working well, that they should be offering feedback to us to help improve what we’re doing.”
Higgins introduced herself as a graduate of Niagara-Wheatfield and a proud mother of two children – one who graduated in 2018 and one that will graduate in 2022.
She has served as an active member of the Niagara-Wheatfield Alumni Association board for 12 years, and also volunteers her time as the treasurer for the Niagara-Wheatfield Football Families Boosters, and as a member of the NWCSD policies committee. According to a message on Facebook, Higgins says that being involved in these organizations has allowed her “the chance to get to know the parents and the students of our school district and to better understand the challenges that affect our administration, teachers, & students.”
Higgins works as a human resources manager for a local manufacturing company where she believes her experience will aid her as a board member. Higgins says she has spent years “reviewing and implementing policies and procedures, and working with our senior management team in dealing with problems and people and finding the best solutions.”
Jasper described herself as an active 30-year plus resident of the Niagara-Wheatfield community and a proud working mother with two sons – the eldest of which is now an active duty U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, while the youngest is presently a high honor student in the district middle school.
Jasper has worked at United Healthcare for 16 years now as a senior statistical analyst. On Facebook, Jasper describes herself as an active advocate and public trainer/speaker for recognizing, addressing and assisting victims of domestic violence in professional environments, “an epidemic I am proud to help combat.”
Jasper says she is running out of her utmost respect for teachers and education professionals, and hopes to serve as a “middle-man,” working to help communicate between the community and the school.
Lee has been a police officer with the City of Niagara Falls and Town of Niagara Police for over 17 years. Between his years in public service and watching his son play hockey for Niagara-Wheatfield High School, Lee says he finds himself “seeking another opportunity to continue working and advocating for the children and families in the community that I serve.”
In a message published on Facebook, Lee also touts his experience as a union leader as giving him the skills necessary to work on the board.
“I have had the opportunity to lobby members of our legislature over many issues related to my employment, most notably, financial support from state government,” Lee wrote. ”With the uncertainty that now looms over our state aid it is imperative that we, as a district, continue to communicate with Albany to advocate for our schools.”
Sneed has served on the Board of Education for the past six years, with the last two years as its vice president. A proud retired active duty Army soldier with over 24 years of service, Sneed says his goal, if re-elected, is to advocate for full funding of public education.
In a statement released on Facebook, Sneed wrote, “During the last few years, our district has been underfunded over five million dollars of ‘Foundation Aid.’ Foundation aid is the main source of funding for state public schools. ... Failing to fully fund education is unacceptable because we know that a strong education system produces a resilient community. Even with the shortcomings in funding, we are a strong community with an outstanding school district. Imagine all we could accomplish with full funding.”
Myers has served on the board since 2017, during which time he says he has worked diligently to keep the district under the tax cap while at the same time “providing a great education, significantly improving our facilities, and maintaining a solid financial footing.”
Myers graduated from Niagara-Wheatfield in 2002 and was his class’s salutatorian. He went on to attend Niagara University on a full academic scholarship where he dual majored in business management and economics and finance.
Myers says that it was through his experience working with Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission, wherein he witnessed a number of young people who had lost their way and dropped out of schools, that he learned the crucial need for schools to be sensitive to the various needs of their students.
The School Board election and budget vote will be held on Tuesday, June 9. In accordance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, this year's voting will be done by absentee ballot. Every qualified voter in the district will be mailed an absentee ballot with a postage-prepaid return envelope.
Completed absentee ballots must be received by the office of the district clerk no later than 5 p.m. June 9.
For more information, visit the district website at www.nwcsd.org or contact the superintendent at 716-215-3003.