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Ely out as school superintendent in Massachusetts

Ely out as school superintendent in Massachusetts

Former Schenectady City School District superintendent Eric Ely is out of a job again.
Ely out as school superintendent in Massachusetts
Former Schenectady City School District Superintendent Eric Ely is pictured in this 2010 photo.

Former Schenectady City School District superintendent Eric Ely is out of a job again.

This time he left without being paid to go, resigning from his position as superintendent after his school board received an official report on whether there were legal reasons to fire him.

The Southbridge, Mass., school committee accepted his resignation Friday without public comment. Committee Chairwoman Patricia Woodruff did not make the report public and would not describe its findings.

She had previously defended Ely, saying she hoped for a quick resolution to allegations made against him late last year.

“I think he’s done a very good job,” she said.

The committee suspended Ely with pay in November after receiving an allegation of misconduct so serious that committee members said they had to take immediate action.

The committee had never publicly described the allegation.

However, Woodruff said the committee had to investigate two different allegations, unrelated to each other, about Ely’s activities. The first allegation, she said, was filed by an assistant principal when she abruptly resigned last year.

The assistant principal said Ely had trained his new middle/high school principal to be a bully.

Woodruff said the committee hired a private attorney to look into that allegeation. Then came a second allegation, and Ely was suspended.

A month after that, the committee also suspended the new middle/high school principal.

Woodruff denied that Ely’s alleged misconduct involved the principal, but said that due to privacy laws, she would not describe the situation.

The principal is still on paid suspension.

The committee hired Basan Nembirkow to serve as acting superintendent until the end of the school year.

Some of the turmoil may be political. When Ely appointed the new principal to run the new middle/high school in its first year, she had no experience. Making matters worse, she did not file her licensing paperwork until after she got the job.

Some residents and committee members criticized the appointment, saying there were more qualified candidates.

But the appointment narrowly passed the school committee by a vote of 4-3. The three members who voted against it said that Ely’s plans for the new middle/high school went against the promises he made to the public about the project. They were so irate that they called for Ely to be fired and pushed the issue to a vote, which failed by a similar 4-3 count.

Criticism mounted over the course of the school year, with some committee members saying the inexperienced principal is allowing more violence in the middle/high school. In media reports, the police chief disputed whether violence has increased.

Ely also ran into problems when he was superintendent of Schenectady’s schools, but the school board there could not convince him to resign. Eventually, the board paid him $144,500 to leave in 2010. He took the Southbridge job the next day.

He still owns a house in Schenectady, which he put on the market shortly after taking the Southbridge job but has not yet sold.

In Schenectady, many residents urged the board to fire Ely for allegedly tipping off school employee Steven Raucci to the multi-county law enforcement investigation against him. Raucci was convicted of placing bombs on homes and vehicles to intimidate their owners. Some of his victims were school employees who had argued with him about school issues or fought him in the school union.

Ely also came under fire for what some residents viewed as threats. When the budget was rejected in 2009, he announced that he had found a way to increase taxes by 15.8 percent if the budget was rejected a second time.

Ely also was criticized by the school board and school administrators for not asking school leaders for ideas on where to cut costs in 2010. Instead, he told the board he was out of ideas.

At the time, school board President Cathy Lewis said his actions led to a “crisis of confidence.”

But she said that it would have been very difficult to find legal reasons to fire him, and called the payment “reasonable” as a way of getting him to leave.

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