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Incumbent Jason M. McCarthy said he deserves to be re-elected to the Buffalo Board of Education because he’s proven himself.

Since joining the board in 2010, he’s championed the district’s new health and wellness policy, which will lead to broad changes such as more nutritious food offerings in schools and mandatory recess and more physical education time starting this fall.

“I feel like I still have work to do,” said McCarthy, who has a young child attending School 81.

McCarthy, 38, has worked as a restaurant and bar manager for nearly 10 years and is employed by Hutch’s restaurant. He also worked as a mortgage loan officer with HSBC from 2001 to 2005. He’s a product of Catholic schools and graduated from the University at Buffalo in 2000.

McCarthy said he first got involved with public service when he worked to establish the region’s first off-leash dog park, the Barkyard, in LaSalle Park in 2007.

When he had his first child, he said, he couldn’t afford to send her to private school, so he became invested in improving the city schools. He successfully ran for the North District seat three years ago.

He counts among his top accomplishments his leading work in shaping the district’s new health and wellness policy, the Riverside High School program that will enable students to gain personal trainer certification, and the use of school construction money to train all coaches and physical education teachers in the use of gym equipment at all new schools.

Students are eating more healthfully this year, compared with last, with more whole grain and fresh fruit served every day, he said. The head of food service once told him these changes couldn’t be made until 2015, he said, but he demanded the timetable be pushed up.

“It all comes down to health,” McCarthy said. “Nobody was looking at it until I came on the board.”

Looking ahead, he said, he plans to push a transition back to neighborhood schools, with 40 percent of all student seats at schools reserved for neighborhood children and school choice preserved at the high school level.

He also wants to see the reorganization of the district’s “horrible” and unwelcoming central registration process, which makes it cumbersome to get children registered for school.

McCarthy said he’s also focused on expanding vocational and career technical education, and he pointed to the urgent need to improve enrollment in those areas to boost graduation rates.

“We just spent $1 million on a new greenhouse at McKinley High School, and we have 11 kids in the [horticulture] program – 11 kids,” he said. “We should have 100 kids in that program and going on to open landscape businesses.”

On other issues, McCarthy said he believes teachers should be required to live in the city, and he supports an increase in the number of charter schools. He said it’s too early to say whether Superintendent Pamela Brown is moving the district in the right direction and declined to answer whether city taxpayers should contribute more money to district schools.

McCarthy has proven an excellent fundraiser, which will make him a serious contender for re-election. He said he’s already raised more than $20,000 as part of his campaign, which is a significant sum for a board race. He won his three-way race in 2010 with 323 votes.

“People seem to have faith in me,” he said.

He enjoys considerable financial support from the business community and is connected with key political players and elected officials – both Republican and Democrat – assisting him in his campaign. He said the city’s Republican Party leaders offered to carry his petitions, but he declined.

News staff reporter Mary Pasciak contributed to this story. email: stan@buffnews.com