A majority faction of the Gloversville school board Tuesday night voted to hire an attorney to prepare a case seeking the ouster of board President Peter Semione over alleged misconduct.
In a 5-3 vote, the faction hired the Rose Law Firm of Little Falls for $150 per hour, with no cap on the number of hours to be provided. The firm will prepare a petition to be sent to the commissioner of the State Education Department under Section 306 of the Education Law, which allows the commissioner to remove a board member for gross misconduct.
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. He had no comment about Tuesday’s vote, saying he can’t comment on legal matters. In prior interviews, he denied the allegations and called the move to petition him off the board a power play.
No one from the public attended the meeting.
The majority faction alleges Semione committed misconduct by bullying and threatening at least three board members — Joseph Andrews, Vice President Frank Carangelo and member Polly Peck — when they tried to get answers as to why a music teacher was transferred from the high school to the middle school. The transfer sparked community anger, which spilled out at a board meeting during the summer. Andrews said Semione made the decision without full board input.
Andrews made the motion to hire Rose, which member Mike Hauser seconded. Voting in favor were Andrews, Hauser, Peck, Carangelo and Richard Carlson. Opposed were Semione, E. Lynn Brown and Jean LaPorta. Robert Curtis was absent.
LaPorta tried to head off the vote by offering her own resolution. She asked Semione to resign as president, because the board had lost confidence in his leadership. She said he would be doing the right thing by resigning and that his resignation would save the district money. “I refuse to spend any taxpayer dollars to throw Pete off the board,” she said.
LaPorta said “board politics” were distracting board members from their mission of guiding the education of students and she asked them to “move away from this controversy.” No one supported her resolution.
Andrews said had Semione resigned as president, the majority faction would not have hired the law firm. “Whatever money is spent is on him,” he said.
Andrews defended the majority faction’s action. “The board is brave to step out. This is uncharted territory,” he said. He likened board members to victims of abuse and that “when you are victimized, it is the hardest thing to do” to break free of the cycle.
He said the Gloversville district has suffered academically under Semione’s leadership, falling to the bottom of the list of schools in Fulton County, with three of its schools performing poorly and on the state’s “focus” list. A focus school is one in which a particular group of students isn’t doing well.
“We have no goals, we have no mission. We do not have meetings to plan agendas. Why are we not engaging the public?” Andrews asked. He said a “few bad apples” are the cause of the district’s problems and that the district would excel were the bad apples removed. He did not name the other “bad apples.”
Andrews said he has no aspirations to become the next board president should the commissioner remove Semione. He said he and the other members of the faction are not on a “power trip.”