Former mayoral candidate Bernard Tolbert announced Thursday that he will seek one of the three at-large seats on the Buffalo Board of Education in the May 6 election.
Tolbert, who led the FBI’s Buffalo office and held executive posts with the National Basketball Association and Coca-Cola, said his three decades of administrative experience will help him solve some of the problems the district is facing.
The Buffalo native also noted that he comes from a family of educators, including his mother, who started her career as a teacher in Buffalo Public Schools and retired as an administrator. His brother retired a few years ago from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. He also has a son who used to teach at Futures Academy in the Fruit Belt, and his daughter is a teacher at Enterprise Charter School.
Tolbert himself was an educator at Bennett High School for the 1973-1974 school year, he said. He taught algebra and a class of boys with special needs.
“I really believe in teachers. I know the value that teachers bring and how valuable education is,” he said.
Tolbert said his three-point school improvement plan will focus on policies emphasizing the expectation that all students can achieve, rewards for effective teaching, and continuous communication with parents about their children’s performance and ways they can help their children succeed.
Tolbert, 65, challenged Mayor Byron W. Brown in last year’s Democratic Primary, but garnered only 32 percent of the vote while running a campaign generally regarded as too low key.
In running for the School Board, his opponents will include the man he never got to compete against in November: former Republican mayoral hopeful Sergio Rodriguez, who also has announced a bid for one of the at-large seats.
Tolbert said what sets him apart from other candidates is a “huge passion for making things better.”
“That’s what motivates me,” he said. “It energizes me to see to it that children get a good education.”
After graduating from Lafayette High School, Tolbert got his bachelor’s degree in 1971 and a master’s degree in social work in 1973, both from the University at Buffalo.
In 1980, he became a special agent for the FBI. After graduating from the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Va., he served for two decades in supervisory roles in Buffalo, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, retiring as the special agent in charge of the Buffalo division.
Following security management roles for Coca-Cola and HSBC Bank, in 2002 Tolbert was appointed vice president in charge of security for the NBA and later became senior vice president of security until his retirement in 2010.
Other candidates for the five-year School Board term include Adrian F. Harris, a teacher’s aide in the Lancaster Central School District, who ran unsuccessfully last year for the Park District seat; Board Member John Licata; Wendy S. Mistretta, a member of the District Parent Coordinating Council’s Executive Committee who ran for the North District seat last year; Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold; and Erie Community College student Stephon Wright, a former School Board student representative.