By Jennifer Westerholt:
Patti Bowers Pierce has enjoyed an esteemed 30-year career in law enforcement. After working as a Buffalo Police officer and detective, Pierce was recruited in 1998 by newly elected Erie County Sheriff Patrick M. Gallivan to serve as his chief of violence prevention and education. In that role, she focused on families in crisis and became all too familiar with the adverse effects that various social ills have on children.
“I was not out chasing bank robbers,” Pierce explained. “I was working on sexual abuse cases, child abuse cases, domestic, school and workplace violence prevention.”
That could explain why Pierce recently submitted 2500 signatures to the Erie County Board of Elections, in a bid to win one of three at-large seats on the Buffalo Board of Education in a city-wide election on Tuesday May 6th.
“The time has come for change,” she said. “That is evident by the number of people who have filed petitions for these three seats.”
In the last decade Pierce has worked as a corporate investigator and is now a criminal investigator with the Erie County District Attorney’s office. She plans to bring that experience and unique insight to the board, where she hopes to take a multidisciplinary approach to students and families through the Buffalo Public Schools.
“I want to see a collaboration of social service agencies that can address the challenges that our students face every day, starting with truancy,” she said. “I know, first hand, the impact that adverse childhood experiences have on classrooms and on teachers. I’ve witnessed it in our criminal justice system, and we need to fix it.”
Pierce said that she will take a hands-on approach in her board role, wanting Buffalo teachers and students to know her name, and to empower district principals by giving them the key resources they need to lead their schools.
She supports the termination of Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown and believes that the time has come for Central Office to stop leading from behind closed doors.
“This is such a critical issue in Buffalo- a city that is flourishing, that is on the cusp of greatness. The one negative associated with that change is our schools,” she said. “It is obvious how problematic the situation is. Community leaders and key stakeholders recognized how important it is when they offered to buy out Dr. Brown’s contract. They were willing to pay her to leave.”
Pierce is aware of the division that exists on the board and thinks she is well-equipped to roll up her sleeves and work cooperatively with fellow board members, to examine the district’s successes, and advocate for those who may not have the ability or resources to fight for themselves.
“A board is about governance, about transparency,” she said. “We have a common goal and that is to responsibly represent our city’s children and families. Parents need to be heard. They need a voice at the table.”
Pierce believes that success or failure in a child’s life can depend on the impact of one caring adult. I am doing this because I care,” she said. “The board should be made up of a set of minds, not a mindset. We always need to act in the best interest of our students.”