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SCHOOL BOARD RESIGNATION SPARKS TALK OF PRESSURE TO OUST FACTION

Williamsville School Board members backed by a taxpayer group say the sudden resignation of one of their own is evidence of a systematic effort to drive them from office.

But what they're experiencing is just part of being a public official, said fellow board members, and not a conspiracy against members Ralph J. Argen, William Paluch and Ken Smith.

"There's no systematic effort to drive anyone off the board," said board President Sharon Harris-Ewing. "I thought we were actually making some progress."

Argen said he resigned Tuesday because the board was going to meet in executive session that night and possibly vote him out of office. He also resigned over disgust with tactics used in the last election and his inability to make changes as part of the board's minority.

"I just wish I could have been more effective," Argen said. "This board is firmly entrenched and owned by the teachers union."

The executive session was to talk about Argen's releasing a legal opinion from the district's attorney that the board received in executive session and that was stamped confidential. He gave it to three losing School Board candidates, a violation of the board's policy. They used it against the district in their appeal to the state commissioner of education to overturn the election.

The losing candidates claim that teachers handed out fliers and told children to urge parents to vote for candidates backed by the teachers union and PTA, which, if true, would violate state education law.

The commissioner has not ruled on the matter yet.

Mrs. Harris-Ewing said there were no specific plans to vote Argen out of office or take any action against him. "It was a possibility, but we might have decided to do nothing," she said.

For the last year, the board has been bitterly divided between four taxpayer group-backed members and five members backed by the teachers union and PTA. Things were at their worst during the May election, which was the most expensive in the district's history and one of the nastiest.

Argen's resignation and the allegations follow on the heels of Paluch's pulling his son out of the district schools. The 7-year-old was harassed for his father's political positions and stance against high teacher salaries, Paluch said.

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