NIAGARA FALLS – The six candidates for the Niagara Falls School Board spent the better part of two hours Tuesday night making their cases to voters about why they should be elected next week.

At a forum in Niagara Falls Public Library, the four newcomers and two incumbents tackled questions about teacher evaluations, the role of schools in poor cities like the Falls and how to deal with discipline, among other issues.

The challengers in the race, trying to unseat the two incumbents for five-year terms, are Anthony F. Paretto, an electrician who works for the city; Herbert L. Lewis, a security guard at Seneca Niagara Casino; Michael S. Gawel, an accountant and real estate broker; and Ronald J. Barstys, director of student services for the North Tonawanda City School District.

They face incumbents Kevin Dobbs, who has been on the board since 1997, and Don J. King, a board member for more than three decades.

The issue of teacher evaluations was one of the most heatedly debated issues of the night.

Dobbs said he believes the district should be there to support teachers and students who need help.

Paretto agreed, saying teachers shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’re “going to be on the unemployment line.”

King called for more mentoring of younger teachers by veteran teachers.

Barstys, who has master’s degrees in science education and school district administration, said he supports the “growth model,” in which teachers are evaluated on an even playing field by looking at the performance of students who have similar statuses and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Lewis said he believes the ability of a teacher can be seen in the performance of the students.

Gawel said he favors evaluating both teachers and students. Individuals get evaluated throughout their lives, Gawel said, pointing to people who work in sales as well as people in sports, who he said are constantly being evaluated.

Students need to be pushed more, Gawel said, adding that the district should keep pushing, keep testing and “punish the ones who fail.”

The only candidate who advocated for any change to the district’s residency policy was Barstys, who said he believes it should be modified so that after a number of years, perhaps 10, employees could move out of the district and live where they choose.

When asked about charter schools, none of the candidates said they would support creating new ones.

The candidates were asked whether they have any relatives in their immediate or extended families who work for the district.

Barstys said his wife is a tenured English teacher. Dobbs said two of his daughters are teachers, and another is a teaching associate. Paretto said his sister is a teaching assistant. Gawel and Lewis said they did not have any relatives working for the district. King said his wife’s second cousin had worked there. “I come with no strings attached,” Lewis said.

Corey Bower, assistant professor of leadership and politics at Niagara University, served as the forum’s moderator.

The event was sponsored by the Niagara Falls Block Club Council, the Rotary Club of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Falls chapter of the NAACP and the Kiwanis Club of Niagara Falls. About 40 people attended.

It was recorded for airing on LCTV, Time Warner Cable channel 22.

The board election, with two open seats with five-year terms, and budget vote is next Tuesday. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.

For the first time in 20 years, the proposed budget would increase the tax levy. The 3 percent increase would keep all programs intact and cause no layoffs.

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