A majority of the Gloversville school board will ask the state to remove board President Peter Semione over allegations of misconduct.
The board voted 5-3 Monday night to file a petition under Section 306 of the Education Law that allows the state commissioner of education to remove a trustee, a member of a board of education and certain other school officers for willful misconduct or neglect of duty.
Semione was elected president at the July organizational meeting. He is serving his fourth one-year term. He has been on the board seven years and was re-elected to the board in November.
Voting for the petition resolution were board Vice President Frank Carangelo and members Joseph Andrews, Robert Curtis, Mike Hauser and Polly Peck. Opposed were board members E. Lynn Brown, Richard Carlson and Jean LaPorta. Semione did not attend the special meeting called by the majority.
The board also voted 5-3 to hire an outside legal counsel to represent it throughout the process.
Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo issued a statement following the board’s vote: “I want to assure our students, their families and our staff that this issue will not prevent us from moving our educational program forward. We will remain committed to providing a strong educational program here in Gloversville while the board moves through this process.”
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13.
Board members have consistently refused to publicly discuss the misconduct allegations against Semione. They did say the allegations would become public when the petition is filed with the state. During the meeting, however, several board members provided additional insight into the matter.
Andrews, who introduced the petition resolution, accused Semione of an unspecified coverup, of “constant non-communications” and of threatening fellow board members.
“Finally, when we have a voice to get into an issue, we are threatened because of this. It is wrong,” Andrews said in comments taped by AM 1340 WENT radio. “Atrocities are still being committed.”
During the meeting, Peck said she had a “45-minute phone conversation that supports every accusation brought forth.” She accused Semione of calling board members “despicable names,” of bullying board members and of having a “blackmail list.”
Added Peck: “We have a leader who is less than transparent and speaking for the board about things that are not true. I can’t be on a board that can’t come clean when they have done something wrong.”
Semione on Tuesday said the allegations of misconduct have no validity. “They said I have threatened them, which I told them was an absolute lie.”
Semione accused the five board members of executing a power play and said he does not intend to resign. “I am going nowhere. I have done nothing wrong. The main point is that this is affecting programming for students,” he said. “We are not addressing the real needs of the district and we are not doing our due diligence for the kids.”
Carlson said he does not believe Semione’s alleged actions crossed the line to warrant his removal. “To me, it seems a classic ‘he said this, he said that,’ with the truth somewhere in the middle.”
Further, Carlson said, the board will have to “work together on many issues that will require our undivided attention. The people we represent expect nothing less than our undivided attention and for the sake of the children we must meet their expectations.”
Curtis said he wrestled with the decision to seek Semione’s ouster, but decided there was no other way to settle the issue. “We tried to deal with it internally. The behavior that happened crossed the line into misconduct,” he said.
Curtis said Semione allegedly had confrontations with three board members: Peck, Andrews and Carangelo.
“This is not the time for petty, personal agendas, and I would not have gone along with [the resolution] if it were nonsense,” he said.
Prior to the petition resolution, LaPorta offered a resolution that would have transferred the powers of the board president to that of the vice president. The motion failed. She said her proposal was an attempt to “keep our own house in order.”
LaPorta called the petition resolution “a power struggle” rather than what the “original issues called for.”