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Board votes to give principal tenure

With dozens of supporters rallying behind her, an elementary school principal in the Lackawanna School District was granted tenure by a 4-3 vote of the School Board.

Maureen Fernandez, principal of Truman Elementary School, stood and turned toward those supporters after the motion was approved.

"I would like to thank the parents who have been my staunchest supporters," she said.

Matteo A. Anello Jr., assistant principal at the high school, also was granted tenure -- by a unanimous vote of the School Board.

A district employee since 1984, the School Board appointed Fernandez as principal in 2004; her three-year probationary period expires May 4. She had been granted tenure when a teacher but gave that up when she became an administrator.

Had she been denied administrative tenure, Fernandez wouldn't have been able to return to teaching with seniority rights.

Popularly regarded as meaning "a job for life," tenure means due process, according to the Web site of the School Administrators Association of New York State. Though it first was instituted at the college and university level to ensure academic freedom, at the primary and secondary level it ensures due process before an administrator is subjected to any form of discipline.

School Boards cannot grant tenure on their own; it must be recommended by the district's superintendent. When asked Thursday night about his recommendation, Superintendent Paul G. Hashem said: "My recommendation stands as affirmative."

John Makeyenko was the only School Board member who had an opportunity to speak before the vote was called, pre-empting further discussion.

Though his comments generally were in support of Fernandez, Makeyenko alluded to "mistakes" made by her but didn't elaborate.

"We have an opportunity to change things," he told fellow board members. "It could be for the good . . . for the bad," Makeyenko said, adding that Fernandez "has done an outstanding job."

Other board members who voted in favor of granting tenure were Kevin Rozwood, Ronald Miller and Steve Hetey.

Voting "no" were Dennis Chudzik; Michael G. Sanders, the board's vice president; and Annette Iafallo, its president.

Asked for his reasoning during a break between the board meeting and a budget work session that followed, Chudzik declined to be specific without first consulting with the School Board attorney.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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