Back in the days when Rosalyn L. Taylor was working as a teacher in Buffalo’s public schools, she sometimes thought about the changes she would try to make if she ever had the chance to run the district.
“I’d say that if I ever was in charge, I would have a mandatory class size of no more than 20 students,” Taylor said. “It’s a much better situation for a teacher to work with a smaller group.”
As things turned out, Taylor did get a hand in running the school district. After 13 years as a teacher, she became a supervisor. She later rose up through the ranks to become the Buffalo Schools’ assistant superintendent for elementary education in 1996.
She retired in 2006 but returned to action when she was appointed to represent the East District on the School Board, after Vivian Evans moved out of town and vacated the position.
Taylor will run for re-election – as a write-in candidate – in Tuesday’s School Board elections. She had to run as a write-in because she was taken off the ballot last month for failing to get the required 500 qualified signatures on her election petition.
After her petitions were rejected, Taylor initially said she was not going to run again. Last week, she changed her mind. She said she believes her years of experience with the district make her a very strong candidate.
“It was due to the urging of my family, my friends and residents of the district. They urged me to do a write-in campaign, and I decided to do it,” Taylor, 65, said in an interview Sunday evening. “I was a teacher in Buffalo for 13 years, and I worked for the district for 37 years. I know the teachers, the administrators and the inner workings of our central office. I had an inside view of how the district works for a long time.”
Taylor’s dream of keeping class sizes to 20 did not come true. Classes in the Buffalo schools can have up to 30 students, Taylor said, adding that most classes have between 25 and 28 students.
Keeping class sizes down is only one of many challenges that will face the next East District board member, which will be either Taylor or her opponent, Theresa A. Harris-Tigg, an assistant professor of English education at SUNY Buffalo State.
The 30,000-student district has one of the lowest graduation rates in the state. It spends $900 million a year in taxpayer dollars and faces controversies, including disputes over teacher evaluations and a teachers union contract that expired nine years ago.
“Student achievement is my top priority,” Taylor said. “Everything we do with the budget, I want to know how it affects the teachers and students in the classroom.”
Taylor grew up in Buffalo and attended Buffalo Schools. She graduated from East High School before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Buffalo State and masters’ degrees from her alma mater and Canisius College. A widow, she has one son, Ryan Eugene, who is a police officer in Richmond, Va.
Taylor does not believe Buffalo school teachers should be required to live in the city.
“What we need is the best teachers we can get, regardless of where they live,” she said.
She opposes an increase in charter schools in Buffalo, and she is in favor of more support for the schools from city taxpayers and of schools’ being kept open in the evening. She is a huge supporter of the Say Yes program, designed to help city students move on to college.
Taylor believes the new superintendent, Pamela C. Brown, has the district moving in the right direction. She disagrees with businessman Carl P. Paladino, the outspoken Park District candidate who has said he wants Brown and all her top administrators to be replaced.
Though she disagrees with Paladino on that point, Taylor said, she believes that Paladino’s participation in the School Board race has spurred a lot more public interest in what is happening with the city schools. She said she believes she can work “in a cooperative and collaborative fashion” with Paladino if he is elected to the board.
In fact, Taylor said, she could envision herself as serving as a “peacemaker” if the combative Paladino joins the board.
“I am a peacemaker and always have been,” she said. “We don’t have time to fight and bicker.”