The Players: A look at the people involved in the Hamburg School District drama - The Buffalo News
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The Players: A look at the people involved in the Hamburg School District drama

The rapist

Clarence M. Justice, 40

• Convicted of raping 15-year-old girl in home of Holly A. Balaya, on Feb. 1, 2009. Serving 4-year sentence.

• Military veteran.

• Former son-in-law of Sally Stephenson.

The board

Sally Stephenson, 62

• Vice president of Hamburg School Board; elected to School Board in May 2012.

• Leader of new board majority that put former superintendent on leave, brought in new attorney for district and discontinued district’s involvement in lawsuit against her, her daughter and a teacher.

• Former son-in-law, Clarence Justice, convicted of raping teenager in her daughter’s home, which Stephenson owns.

• One daughter, Holly Balaya, also serves on the School Board.

• Another daughter, Lindsey Stephenson, was fired as a first-year teacher.

• Critics say Sally Stephenson is avenging her daughter’s firing by the district.

• Accused of secretly taping an executive session of the School Board in September 2010.

Holly A. Balaya, 38

• School Board member since 2011.

• Daughter of Sally Stephenson.

• A 15-year-old girl was raped in Balaya’s home in February 2009, following an underage drinking party. Balaya’s former brother-in-law was convicted of rape.

• Balaya said she believes the girl made up rape allegation and claims Justice – despite DNA evidence – is innocent.

• Alleges police and school administrators are covering up major drug problem in Hamburg schools.

David Yoviene, 56

• President of Hamburg School Board; elected to board in May.

• Recently urged School Board members and community members to “stop this war.”

Patricia Brunner-Collins, 48

• Elected to School board in 2006; longest-serving member.

• Stay-at-home mother with job experience as nurse.

• She and other board members filed lawsuit last year, accusing Stephenson and two others of secretly taping an “executive session” of board.

Catherine Schrauth Forcucci, 51

• School board member since July, an ally of Stephenson.

• Alleges police and school administrators are covering up major drug problem in Hamburg schools.

• Went to district offices seeking information about legal fees but left after superintendent called police.

Laura Heeter, 44

• School Board member since July.

• Elected on slate with David Yoviene and Catherine Schrauth Forcucci but has since broken with them and votes independently.

• Homemaker; former special education/elementary education teacher; mother of six children.

Thomas F. Flynn III, 47

• School Board member; former vice president of board.

The others

Lindsey Stephenson, 31

• Former Hamburg teacher.

• Daughter of Sally Stephenson.

• Formerly lived with Martha Kavanaugh, social studies teacher.

• Claims she was unfairly fired because she and Kavanaugh tried to make students accountable for their actions.

• Stephenson, her mother and Kavanaugh are accused in a lawsuit of secretly taping board’s executive session in September 2010 where Stephenson’s dismissal was discussed. All three deny the allegation.

Martha Kavanaugh, 47

• Hamburg social studies teacher since 2002 but on leave due to stress.

• Formerly lived with Lindsey Stephenson, daughter of Sally Stephenson.

• Graduate of the London School of Economics, Kavanaugh says she was not allowed to teach economics because of run-ins with school administrators.

• Claims administrators have punished her because she tried to get them to act against students involved in drug dealing and she refused to change students’ grades.

• Filed 26 grievances or complaints against the district and a lawsuit against a village judge.

Andrew P. Fleming, 57

• Hamburg attorney, also serves as Hamburg village judge.

• Admonished by state Commission on Judicial Conduct for representing teenage rape victim after previously as village judge arraigning Clarence M. Justice for the rape of the girl.

• Sally Stephenson says she filed complaint that led to Fleming’s admonishment.

• Law partner of Daniel Chiacchia, a leader of parents’ group that has raised allegations about wrongdoing by Sally Stephenson and her allies on the School Board.

Daniel J. Chiacchia, 51

• Attorney and law partner to Andrew Fleming.

• Outspoken leader of parents group critical of Sally Stephenson.

• Stephenson claims Chiacchia is criticizing her and her family in retribution for complaint she made about his law partner. Chiacchia says his sole motivation is helping school district.

• Filed complaint with state education commissioner asking for removal of Stephenson and Balaya from board.

Charles F. “Chuck” Mahoney, 44

• Former Hamburg physical education teacher who was fired in 2003 and now works for Buffalo schools.

• Filed a lawsuit against Hamburg district, claiming he was unfairly fired. Lawsuit was dismissed.

• Filed another lawsuit last year, claiming a former board member slandered him.

• Active in School Board campaigns and supported at least three successful candidates in last two elections.

Richard E. Jetter, 39

• Acting superintendent since July.

Steven A. Achramovitch, 59

• Former Hamburg superintendent.

Ed Piazza, 47

• Hamburg businessman; leader of parents group seeking to remove Sally Stephenson and allies from School Board.

James D. Tresmond, 73

• Attorney for Hamburg School District, appointed in July by majority of board led by Sally Stephenson. One-year contract is for $110,000.

Richard T. Sullivan, 67

• Attorney for Harris Beach law firm, which represented Hamburg Schools for 10 years before the board went with Tresmond’s firm in July.

Concerned Hamburger

• Anonymous blogger who runs Hamburg Educational Ethics website. (At left is the blogger’s avatar.)

• Blog satirizes School Board members and administration with sarcastic, caustic and humorous prose. It was created in November 2010 to provide a “publicly accessible news and opinion forum.”

• Critics say blog is a place where anyone can anonymously target and defame those who speak out at public meetings with nasty and inappropriate comments.

• Successfully fought in State Supreme Court the school district’s attempt to lift his or her anonymity.

Secret Tapes

• Sept. 21, 2010: executive session (which a State Supreme Court justice later ruled violated the state’s Open Meetings Law) during which board members discussed firing of Lindsey Stephenson.

The Hamburg School District

• Nearly 3,800 students at six schools across the district.

• Students have scored well on Regents and standardized tests compared to other local districts.

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