Vilardo Bids for Fourth Niagara Falls School Board Term; Gawel Enters Race

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By: Tony Farina

Nicholas Vilardo, a retired fire department battalion chief, is running for his fourth term with the Niagara Falls School Board, saying he still has work to do to help decrease absenteeism and increase graduation rates in city schools.

“I think absenteeism and graduation rates are connected,” says Vilardo, “and we want a 100 percent graduation rate if we can get the kids to school, and we’ve hired five new social workers to help us try and get there.”

Vilardo, who has already served three five-year terms, is one of six candidates competing for two seats in the election on May 21, with petitions due May 1.  He joins five other candidates, including former city lawmaker Michael Gawel, a CPA, in the race for the two seats.

“I also want to be here to see through work on the two-step capital project to upgrade our school facilities including roof repairs and air conditioning updates at four elementary schools,” said Vilardo referring to the $55 million facelift approved by voters in 2017.

Vilardo won his third term on the board in May of 2014 when he was the leading vote-getter.  He said at the time, “I’ll keep doing what I’ve done, put the kids first and move the district ahead.”

The retired battalion chief said during an interview this week that he is also proud of the fact that project labor agreements approved by the district have helped put local people to work on school projects, saying “we pushed to hire as many local workers as we could, and I’m definitely proud of our effort to help our workforce.”

Another achievement Vilardo applauds during his time on the board is the hiring of more safety officers in the current year at all schools, and the implementation of pre-school programs for 3 and 4-year-olds to help get them ready to begin school and cut into the absenteeism rate later and encourage the push to increase the graduation rates.

“We still have work to do, and I want to continue to do that work,” says Vilardo.

Gawel, who served on the City Council back in the early 1990s, is a tax accountant who has also done legal work and changed his plans to run for the council this year due to the election law reforms moving up the petition process, and instead has circulated petitions to run for a school board seat.

Both Vilardo and Gawel bring a wealth of experience to the school board race.  


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