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Four petitions seek Paladino's removal from School Board

The future of Carl Paladino's tenure on the Buffalo Board of Education now rests with the state's education commissioner.

Four separate petitions have been received by the State Education Department asking Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to remove Paladino from the School Board, state education officials confirmed.

The petitions were filed over the past two weeks in the aftermath of Paladino's comments in Artvoice about former President Barack Obama and his wife, remarks which were widely condemned as racist.

The four petitioners are:

  • The Buffalo School Board.
  • The Buffalo Teachers Federation and its parent organization the New York State United Teachers.
  • The Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization and the Buffalo chapter of the NAACP.
  • The District Parent Coordinating Council, a parent group that also asks Elia to put the entire district in receivership.

A ruling by the commissioner typically could take many months, but the State Education Department has been following closely the uproar that has ensued in Buffalo and has hinted at an expedited decision.

"Once all necessary documents in the established removal process are filed, we will review the record as quickly as possible while allowing for a thorough and complete consideration of the facts and relevant law," said Emily DeSantis, a department spokeswoman.

In the meantime, the School Board has asked Elia to grant a "stay" that would provide temporary relief while the process moves ahead, said Frank W. Miller, the attorney representing the School Board. That relief could take any form that the commissioner decides, including preventing Paladino from attending board meetings until this matter is resolved, he said.

"That is entirely at the discretion of the commissioner, but that's what was requested," Miller said.

Paladino has 20 days after the state receives a petition to file a response admitting or denying the allegations made against him, according to department guidelines. The petitioners then will have another 10 days to reply or address any new arguments raised by Paladino.

Once the record is complete, Elia will decide whether there's enough evidence to proceed with a removal hearing. If she does order a hearing, Paladino will have the right to be represented by counsel before the commissioner decides whether to remove him.

It's typically not an in-person hearing, Miller said.

When contacted late Monday, Paladino declined to comment on the petitions filed against him.

While the board, teachers union and parent groups share the same goal of removing Paladino, they're taking somewhat different paths.

The School Board – advised by legal counsel about Paladino's free speech rights concerning the former first family – is taking the approach that Paladino should be removed from the board because he publicly shared information that was discussed in executive session.

In a subsequent article for Artvoice, Paladino revealed private conversations that took place last fall during negotiations for a new Buffalo teachers contract. District policy prohibits board members from sharing information discussed in executive session because it can inhibit the district's ability to do business.

New York State United Teachers, meanwhile, filed the petition on behalf of five Buffalo teachers, arguing that Paladino's comments violated his duty as a board member and role model for the school community.

The petition specifically states that Paladino's comments violate the state's Dignity for All Students Act, requiring districts to ensure students have an education environment free of harassment, bullying and discrimination.

The BPTO and NAACP contend that Paladino’s comments make him unfit to help steer the education of black children in Buffalo.

The District Parent Coordinating Council went an extra step. The parent group asked the commissioner to put the entire school district in receivership, which would take the nine-member School Board out of the picture and allow Superintendent Kriner Cash to take full control.

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