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ORCHARD PARK'S SCHOOL DEBACLE
IT APPEARS THAT SUSPENDED SUPERINTENDENT HAS DESTROYED HIS ABILITY TO LEAD DISTRICT

The Orchard Park School Board needs to ask itself some hard questions about its suspended superintendent, Paul Grekalski. But the most important is whether he has destroyed his ability to lead the district. It would appear that he has.

Even if his excuses for why calls to sex lines and escort services were made from his district-provided cell phone turn out to be true -- he blamed it on his son, who blamed it on his friends -- Grekalski's behavior has been unprofessional.

After being hired last July, he missed his first scheduled meeting with administrators and then arrived 45 minutes late for the second. During the first five months, he was absent an average of one day a week. And he admitted that he generally came to work at 10 a.m. or later.

He followed up this behavior with what some might consider misuse of a district credit card. He used the card to charge more than $3,000 in personal expenses without the School Board's knowledge. He reimbursed the district for the charges. But the question remains: Why didn't he use his own card for personal expenses?

The latest Grekalski drama involves the use of the district's cell phone. Since September, more than 30 calls to escort services and sex chat lines have been placed from the cell phone.

Could it get any worse? Sure. He owns a house in Chautauqua County but didn't pay $2,462 in town and county taxes on time, according to the Town of Carroll assessor's office.

Grekalski's excuses for his behavior are embarrassingly weak. He said he used a district credit card for personal expenses because he felt it would force him and his family to show restraint. As for the cell phone, he said he loaned it to his 25-year-old son, who then loaned it to his friends. Even if that is true, he's responsible for the phone, and had no business lending it to anyone.

He is on paid administrative leave, in accordance with state law. His bizarre behavior makes you wonder how a man who built a solid reputation during 18 years as superintendent of the Frewsburg School District in Chautauqua County could fall so far and so quickly.

It should be noted that Grekalski has achieved some positive results. He established a community group to open lines of communication in the school district, and enlisted the support of the local clergy. And board members are giving Grekalski credit for a budget that carries the smallest tax increase in several years.

Still, it's difficult to see how he can ever lead the district again. What's more, the board also should answer a few questions. Is it possible no one on the board knew he was regularly working four days a week and not even getting into the office until 10 o'clock on many days? How could the board allow that to continue?

Perhaps Assistant Superintendent Joan Thomas, who will be acting superintendent, put it best: The time has come to stop looking backward and to move forward with the business of education. It's difficult to see how that could happen without naming a permanent replacement for Grekalski.