What had seemed to be a clear victory looming for incumbent Sharon Belton Cottman in the Ferry District may not be a foregone conclusion.
Although Cottman is the only candidate on the ballot in the Ferry District, several sources said that a write-in effort is afoot to return the Rev. Kinzer M. Pointer to the board, with various people offering differing assessments as to the extent of the effort.
Pointer says he is not involved in the effort – and, in fact, does not even know for sure whether such an effort is under way.
“I’d like to know who’s behind such an effort,” he said. “I’m not a candidate. I was asked months ago about this campaign, and I told them I wasn’t in. I told them I just don’t have the time [to campaign].”
Carl P. Paladino said he met with Pointer and encouraged him to run, once he heard that Pointer was considering a write-in campaign. Paladino, a candidate in the Park District, said he has agreed to pay for some of the literature promoting Pointer that will be distributed to voters.
“I’m agreeing to pay for palm cards,” Paladino said. “I’m very happy he has all the support he has. I’m happy people are going out for him and organizing a write-in [campaign].”
Pointer said he was not aware of any involvement from Paladino – and said he did not even know the developer.
“I don’t know Mr. Paladino,” he said. “That’s a surprise to me. I don’t know what Mr. Paladino’s interest would be in the Ferry District.”
Multiple sources said the write-in effort was designed to be last-minute, so as to prevent the Buffalo Teachers Federation from mounting a major effort against it.
Although he says he is unaware of a write-in effort to elect him, Pointer said he would serve if elected.
He also was clear about his displeasure with incumbent Sharon Belton Cottman.
“You have to be able to work with people. She often seems combative and adversarial,” he said. “If you want to get something done on the board, you need to be able to get at least four persons to work with you.”
Pointer, 50, ran unsuccessfully for an at-large board seat in 2004. About three years later, he was appointed to the Ferry District seat to fill a vacancy and served the remainder of that term, almost a year. He ran to retain the seat but was thrown off the ballot after a number of signatures on his nominating petitions were ruled invalid.
He ran for the Ferry District seat in 2010 but lost to Pamela Cahill by 69 votes out of the total 1,367.
In that race, Pointer had the backing of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and Democrats for Education Reform, a New York City-based group.
The pastor of Agape Fellowship Baptist Church previously worked for several years as a parent coordinator at Enterprise Charter School.
A graduate of Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Canisius College.
He said he supports a partial neighborhood school model that would somehow take into account the fact that there are some neighborhoods in the city that lack a school nearby.
“Neighborhood schools are a possibility that we need to explore, but we need to understand we shouldn’t explore neighborhood schools exclusively,” he said. “Parents should have the right to send their kids to any school in the district they want to.”
Pointer said he would like to see “the best combination of schools” for students in Buffalo, which he envisions as a combination of charter schools and some experimentation with new programs in district schools. He cited Math Science Technology Preparatory School and International Prep as two examples of programs the district started in the last several years that filled a niche.
Superintendent Pamela C. Brown hasn’t been in Buffalo long enough for him to make a determination as to her effectiveness, he said.
“We barely gave her enough time to get here and get used to a Buffalo winter before we decided to beat up on the superintendent,” he said. “I think that’s tragic.”
Pointer said that rather than seeking to reinstate a residency requirement for teachers, he would like to see the district work out an incentive program in collaboration with the mayor to entice teachers to live in Buffalo.
He also proposed financial rewards for teachers based on student performance. “I’d like to see pay for performance,” he said. “I’d like to see us paying educators additional money based on student achievement and the educator’s performance. I’ve seen that work in other school districts, and I believe it will work in Buffalo.”