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Stalking charge against Palumbo called 'assault on School Board'

Upset over the Dec. 3 arrest of fellow School Board member Leonard Palumbo on a stalking charge, board President David S. Schaubert came to Tuesday night's board meeting prepared for war.

He feels the charge is "political" and "a direct assault on the School Board" by some "employees and residents that . . . lost their [control of the district two years ago] and are willing to do anything to get it back."

Schaubert named no names, saying, "I don't need to identify them, as we are well aware who they are."

He came armed with a war strategy, a resolution that would set next year's school budget back to $30 million, cutting it drastically from this year's $37.8 million district spending package, if such attacks continue. The measure, which Schaubert does not favor, was tabled.

He said such a budget would cause "chaos," which nobody wants.

Schaubert told people attending the session that the community had the choice of war or peace. He said something like the budget resolution could become a reality if certain parties continue their attempts to subvert "the board's sovereignty and the independence of the entire district" for personal gain.

"Today we stand on a razor's edge," where district employees and residents must decide whether things will return to the factional warfare of the past, which will hurt students, or "continue to be about doing the right thing for the right reasons," as most everyone has been doing for the past 18 months, he said.

After the board's formal business session ended, a visibly disgusted Schaubert temporarily surrendered his chair to board member Edward M. Lilly to finish up the session while he marched out, leaving everyone with a month to mull those options.

"Only you can put a stop to this lunacy," he said.

Schaubert's whole discourse focused on the Palumbo situation, which has pitted the board member against eighth-grade social studies teacher Richard Sweeney.

Sweeney has said Palumbo has been stalking his family for several months, causing his wife to fear for her safety. His wife, Katherine, accused Palumbo -- in the complaint that led to his arrest -- of stopping his car in the middle of the road while she was walking down it. Palumbo said the charge is "completely false," noting he and Sweeney just live eight doors apart.

Sweeney also claims Palumbo was instrumental in denying him his former position as a district soccer coach because he has been an outspoken opponent of the board on a number of issues. He also calls Palumbo's alleged stalking a personal attack against him.

Lewiston-Porter United Teachers Union President Jean Henesey said her union is not involved in any war against the district. She said she has had a good working relationship with Schaubert and wants to continue to work with him for the good of the district.

She said she believes the Palumbo-Sweeney situation is an isolated thing that has nothing to do with the teachers union.

Schaubert likened the situation to a war about cheese.

"Cheese is a metaphor used for money and power. This is a conflict about who has the cheese, who controls the cheese, and who gets the cheese," and whether the district will continue to get better through cooperation or return "to the past, where it was about the king rat controlling his domain by the selective distribution of the cheese to the favored mice."

He left the Community Resource Center quickly and did not stay around to answer many questions.

Before Lilly left the building, he approached Henesey and shook her hand.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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