Everybody knows Ken Hamilton. Whether through the columns he writes (or used to write) for the Niagara Gazette, the passionate oratory he delivers at public meetings, or just as the loquacious guy moving from table to table and saying hello at the Como or some other local eatery, Hamilton is ubiquitous.
The Navy veteran and former WJJL radio host has now decided to throw his hat in the ring as a candidate for the Niagara Falls City School Board, a place where he feels his broad experience and familiarity with the issues confronting our city may do some good.
"We cannot build a great city upon the foundations of a failing school system. We finish 92nd out of 97 school districts in Western New York, and the things about our school system that many people are most proud are smart boards, new buildings and athletic fields," he told the Niagara Falls Reporter. ""I am running against those who are comfortable in operating our failing school system."
Hamilton undoubtedly has the greatest name recognition of the seven candidates vying for two open board seats heading into the May 20 vote.
Aside from Hamilton, Angela Bray, Steven DiNieri, Herbert L. Lewis, Arthur Jocoy Jr., Nicholas Vilardo and Thomas R. Vitello, Sr., have all filed petitions.
Jocoy and Vilardo currently hold seats on the board and are seeking re-election.
But Hamilton was never one to shy away from a little competition.
"People often say that I have the ability to think outside of the box, to which, I say, 'What box? Is there a box?'I would like to see the motto of the Niagara Falls Board of Education change from, "Learning … whatever it takes," to, "Teaching … for all that it gives."
Teachers, after all, and not highly paid administrators are the ones who know best what the problems are in the school district, Hamilton maintains.
"I believe that the teacher should be the king or queen of education of the children that are in their charge, that's why they go to college to get their degrees. The administration should fully support their efforts," he said. "Surveys show that on the educational level Niagara Falls has some of the most experienced teachers in the state. I say, let them loose to teach and reward them for their students and their successes."
Born in Niagara Falls and attending local schools, Hamilton dropped out of vocational school in 1970, worked for a few months at a B-Kwik Market and Slipko's Food Market, then followed his life dream of joining the Navy when he realized that there was not much future in maintaining a job in a family-owned business.
In 1971, Hamilton voluntarily shipped out for Vietnam. Prior to deployment, Ken studied for and acquired his GED, and qualified for entry into the Navy's Broadened Opportunities for Officer Selected Trainees program. He served his country for 13 years in both active duty and Naval Reserve deployments.
As a part of his community service after discharge, he was the chairman of the African-American Cultural Experience, a member of the Niagara Council of the Arts, a board member of the Highland Avenue Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, and a past president of the Niagara Falls Chapter of the NAACP.
As vice-president and personnel chairman of the Area One Community Preservation Corp., and a member of the Niagara Association of Black School Educators, Hamilton has worked very closely with many politicians in campaigns for Congress, Legislature, and city council, himself running for the 57th District Senate seat and the Second District seat in the Niagara County Legislature.
Hamilton attended San Diego Mesa College, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA., Niagara County Community College and Niagara University where he majored in accounting and commerce.
In addition to working as a legislative aide for Sen. Alfred T. Coppola, Hamilton also worked as the community consultant for the Whirlpool International Truck Bridge Company, whose purpose was to bring jobs and commerce to the city.
Hamilton is a founder of the Word of Life Ministries Church, and had produced and directed the Bethlehem Revival Temple's "Good News Telecast," a cable television program.