Additional details have emerged about what prompted a majority on the Gloversville school board to ask the state to remove board President Peter Semione over alleged 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 at the July organizational meeting to his fourth one-year term as president. He has been a board member for seven years.
Board member Joseph Andrews said the Board of Education will meet next week to hire an attorney to file the petition with the state.
“We don’t want to drag this out too long. This is why we get an expert who knows how to do that. This is a serious issue, and some serious things have been perpetrated against school members,” he said.
Andrews said he introduced the resolution after board members ran into difficulty trying to get questions answered about the transfer at the start of the school year of a high school music teacher to a position at the middle school. Semione made the decision to transfer the teacher without the full board’s knowledge or consent, Andrews said. He said when board members tried to get answers about the transfer, Semione blocked their inquires and made threats against them.
“This all stems to where a decision was made and board members wanted to get together to talk about the decision and [Semione] let everyone know it was his board and he makes all the decisions,” Andrews said. “A lot of board members had concerns about how it was done. This transfer was done by itself. Most of board had no idea the transfer had occurred.”
He added: “I am not saying the transfer was right or it was wrong, but when there are unusual circumstances the board should know.”
Andrews said the way Semione handled the inquires of board members reflects on the quality of his leadership as board president.
“We are trying to focus on kids, but when we find no communications, no debate and that there is one person doing what they want, it is verging on an autocratic leadership,” he said. “You are stopped and blocked when you try to get to the bottom of issues.”
At the height of tensions, Andrews said Semione called him, Vice President Frank Carangelo and member Polly Peck and made criminal statements to them, including the use of the term “blackmail list.”
Semione denies the accusations, calling them lies. Member Richard Carlson said he does not believe Semione’s 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.”
Andrews said that under Semione’s leadership, the school district has declined academically: three schools are focus schools, which indicates they are performing poorly.
“It is poor leadership, that is why we are having poor results,” he said. “We have great people, the best, most modern facilities, great administrators, great teachers. There is no reason we are failing except for a few failed leaders.”
By changing the board’s leadership, Andrews said members can focus better on the district’s problems. He said Semione sets the meeting agenda and has direct contact with key administrators. Semione has also reduced the number of board meetings from two a month to one.
“How can a $50 million-a-year organization that is having bad results meet once a month?” Andrews asked.
Another sore point for Andrews is that the board receives the agenda packet for the monthly meeting Friday, with the meeting scheduled for Monday. He said this leaves little time to research issues or contact people, especially over the weekend.
“There are certain issues that can’t be resolved in four or five minutes. Why don’t we get the agenda a week ahead of time?” he asked.