Theresa Harris-Tigg thinks greater focus needs to be placed on the classroom.
An assistant professor of English education at SUNY Buffalo State, Harris-Tigg is the lone candidate to represent the Buffalo Board of Education’s East District after incumbent Rosalyn L. Taylor failed to acquire enough valid petition signatures to get on Tuesday’s ballot.
“I want to make a difference in the classroom in instruction and curriculum. I want to focus on the schools, making sure we have quality principals and teachers, and that they are supported well,” Harris-Tigg said.
The 58-year-old educator is a product of the Buffalo Public Schools and a graduate of Bennett High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from D’Youville College, a master’s degree in education from Canisius College and a doctorate in education from the University at Buffalo.
Her three children attended Buffalo Public Schools before Harris-Tigg remarried and moved to Kenmore, where they graduated from Kenmore East High School. She has three grandchildren in Buffalo Public Schools.
Harris-Tigg said she believes Superintendent Pamela C. Brown is moving in the right direction, but she is yet to be sold on Say Yes Buffalo, the highly touted program that guarantees financial support to all graduating seniors so they can attend college.
Told that many see Say Yes as a potential game-changer in changing expectations for college, Harris-Tigg said, “That’s what some people feel. I can see that. My goal is to get students to that place to graduate, because if you look at our graduation rate right now, kids are not going to benefit from that.”
Harris-Tigg was reluctant to be pinned down on whether she favors increasing the number of Buffalo charter schools.
“I believe families and parents should have quality school choices no matter what it looks like,” she said. “You have thousands of kids in Buffalo waiting for an opportunity for better schooling. What I’m thinking about this is, every school should be a quality school. But they’re not at the moment, and some families will make their choice for charter schools, and I applaud them.”
Still, Harris-Tigg said, she didn’t want that to be construed as appearing that she favors more charter schools.
The candidate, a product of Schools 39 and 78, wants a return to neighborhood schools.
“They allow the community and the parents to be involved, and there aren’t barriers like transportation and those kinds of things. But it has to be a quality school,” Harris-Tigg added.
She was less certain about whether she supported changes made last year by the School Board to eliminate the teacher residency rule.
“Our children deserve the best teachers, and we don’t want barriers that prevent us from recruiting the very best. I believe in choice. I’m not against the residency rule.” But asked if that meant she was in favor of it, she said, “Not necessarily.”
Harris-Tigg said she thinks it’s important to bring different interest groups together when education is at stake.
“We need to be diverse in our thinking, because the bottom line is this is all about our children,” she said.
She also advocated for a larger voice for parents.
“I think it’s important to have strong parent community ties to the schools. I think parents’ voices are important, and we have to learn to listen to them and not come off as if we know more than them,” Harris-Tigg said.
Harris-Tigg said she is in a position to make a difference on the School Board.
“I see this position as a position of service. I want to serve my community, and I love Buffalo. I think what I would bring is to look at what is working for our students and what may not, and revisit those policies and see if they are even a barrier,” Harris-Tigg said.
She has the support of the Unity Coalition political action group and had planned to spend $8,000 to $10,000 on her campaign before Taylor was forced to drop out.