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Late Lewiston School Board Member Was Victim of Smear Campaign

By Lenny Palumbo

The late Bob Weller, in the throes of cancer, nevertheless takes time to greet and embrace the Reverend Darius Pridgen, called upon the scene to embarass and oust Weller.

On a somber note, former Lew-Port Board of Education member Bob Weller passed away late last month after a long, courageous battle with cancer.

Weller was a true gentleman and conducted himself with class and dignity while enduring the sometimes virulent attacks of those within the district unfit to shine his shoes.

Readers may recall the smear campaign conducted by The Lew-Port teachers union against Mr. Weller in a failed attempt to force his resignation from the school board.

His terminal illness was well known to those who sought to oust him from the board. The ouster attempt was over several more or less harmless, so-called "humorous" emails. They were not authored by Mr. Weller. He merely forwarded them to other adults.

They were labeled “racist,” and that may be debatable. It is certainly likely, in my opinion, that Weller never meant them as racist, but sent them as humor without ill intent.

What seems more likely is that the emails were exploited in order to tarnish the reputation of a good and honest man who was, as was well known, suffering from cancer.

Of course, the motive for the attack may not have been protecting the world from racism. Weller opposed the union's demands for increased pay at the taxpayers' expense.

Seizing on the opportunity, union leaders orchestrated a three-ring circus at the next school board meeting by bringing in African-American community activist Darius Pridgen from Buffalo to publicly chastise Weller with, of course, the attendant press releases.

Supt. Chris Roser acquiesced to the union’s thirst for blood and demanded Mr. Weller’s resignation, but Weller refused and finished out his term.

I attempted to contact Rev. Pridgen by email at the time to suggest to him that he was being played for a chump or a useful idiot; that the union had little interest in protecting or for that matter hiring African Americans.

But Rev. Pridgen declined to respond to my email.

My email did contain one startling piece of information: Somehow or other, Lew-Port has a near total absence of African-Americans employed at the school. Over the last three decades the sum total of African-American teachers, I submit, can easily be counted on one hand.

And maybe have a finger or three left over.

Yet, one would think, there must have been a proportionate number of African-Americans that applied and were qualified as teachers. Why were they not hired?

And these are the people who sat in judgment of Mr. Weller and called him a racist.

Bob Weller was a man who volunteered his time at Buffalo’s VA Medical Center counseling returning serviceman in between chemotherapy treatments.

Try getting a Lew-Port teacher to do something that’s not in the “union contract," and you’ll get slapped with a grievance before you can say Jack Robinson.

Rest in peace, Mr. Weller, and many thanks not only for your service to the community but also for the fine example you set over a lifetime of good deeds for likeminded individuals to follow.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 26 , 2013