YOUNGSTOWN School official ponders leaving

An incumbent defeated in the election said area Hispanics need stronger political organization.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Terri O'Connor is considering vacating her seat on the city school board in light of this week's election results.
"I really don't know what I'm going to do," said O'Connor, who has two years remaining on her four-year term. "I'm thinking of maybe resigning."
O'Connor was elected two years ago with the help of board member Don L. Hanni III but was left politically isolated when Hanni resigned his seat in August 2000.
O'Connor said she was hoping Hanni's father, Don Jr., and Joseph Rafidi would win their election bids for the school board Tuesday, creating a three-member voting bloc.
Hanni and Rafidi, however, were easily defeated; incumbents Lock P. Beachum Sr. and John Maluso and newcomers Jacqueline Taylor and Neil Buzzacco won.
"I'm not sure there will be any major changes" with the new board members, she said. "That was always kind of a problem for me on the board. I felt like I was the lone vote, and I kind of feel that it's still going to be that way."
Waiting to see: O'Connor said she won't decide on her future until after the swearing-in of the new board members in January "to see what these new people are like, what they think like, how much they think."
Maluso and Beachum said Tuesday that a Hanni victory could have hurt the school board's cohesiveness and negatively affected the school system.
O'Connor said cohesiveness is important, but so is open debate of the issues, which she said is sorely lacking on the board.
"A board needs to, not necessarily argue, but to discuss, to have different viewpoints and then come to consensus," she said.
Ousted incumbent: Meanwhile, incumbent Marilyn Gonzalez attributed her defeat Tuesday in part to a lack of political unity in the city's Hispanic community.
"Until the Hispanic community gets an organization strong behind a candidate, I don't think we're going to be able to stay in office," she said.
She said Hispanics need the same kind of political leadership seen in the city's black community to strongly back and get the vote out for candidates.
"I don't know what it's going to take to shake the folks up," she said.
Gonzalez was appointed to the board in 2000 to fill the first two years of board member Ron Skowron's four-year term. Skowron resigned shortly after taking office in January 2000.
Gonzalez did not file to run for the remaining two years of Skowron's term. Instead, she and seven other candidates ran for three full, four-year terms. Beachum, Taylor and Maluso won those seats.
On the other hand, no one filed to be on the ballot for the unexpired term, so five candidates ran as write-ins. Buzzacco won.
Gonzalez said she does not regret not seeking the two-year term. "I was looking for the long term," she said.

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