By Tony Farina
Retired Niagara Falls special education teacher James Cancemi is seeking his third five-year term as president of the Niagara Falls Board of Education in next month’s election, and despite his long tenure in the unpaid position, there is no sign he is ready to leave.
“We’re doing a lot and I’m excited about continuing our work,” said Cancemi, 75, during an interview this week as he gets ready to face four challengers in the election set for May 16th for the position of board president.
Cancemi says that as a member of the Niagara County Community College Foundation and as a board member of Niagara Orleans BOCES, he is able to bring people together to serve the district as never before.
“I have college professionals from NCCC giving our high school students college credits at no cost,” says Cancemi. “We have contracted with NCCC to use English and math teachers and our kids can take those courses in 11th grade and be admitted to NCCC or Niagara University wthout taking any more exams. And if they don’t get it done in 11th grade, they can do it in 12th grade. This is just great for the kids.”
Cancemi said previously, a lot of students would have had to take remedial or non-credit courses after graduation before advancing to college, in effect losing a year.
“We also have our junior and seniors from Niagara Falls High School taking culinary courses in pie-making and cake-making at the NCCC Culinary Institute, leading to a certificate of accomplishment that helps them get a job in the baking field,” said Cancemi who sounds as enthusiastic as a football coach in talking about the new opportunities that are being developed within the district of more than 7,000 students.
Under the district’s direction, 60 high school students are taking nursing courses at the old administration building at 6th and Walnut, “and they’ll be doing their training at nearby Memorial Medical Center only four blocks away,” says Cancemi.
“We just have so much going on, and I’m so excited to be a part of it,” says Cancemi, who also talks glowingly about the graduates from local programs offered in the construction field that prepare them for jobs in the construction industry right out of school.
It sounds like Cancemi wants residents to know that the board of education is making great strides in helping to prepare students for the future, whether it means going to college or beginning work in the private sector as a skilled professional.
Cancemi says he manages to stay on top of it all while running his small furniture business on 6th Street where it has been located for more than 40 years.
“I guess I just want to keep going and help our students get all they can to prepare them for their future lives,” says Cancemi. “That’s really why I want to stick around and keep things moving in the right direction. I think we have some great momentum right now and there’s no reason to walk away.”