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Education commissioner denies stay order for Paladino

Carl Paladino can stay on the Buffalo School Board, for now.

Other members of the School Board and a parent's group asked state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to keep Paladino away from meetings and activities until she rules on their petitions to remove him.

Elia said no.

Elia denied requests for stay orders in two separate appeals seeking removal of Carl Paladino as a member of the Board of Education of the Buffalo City School District, said Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department.

She gave no further explanation.

In the meantime, Elia will continue to review the petitions seeking to oust Paladino permanently from the board.

"Upon receipt of all papers, the commissioner will decide whether a removal hearing is warranted,” DeSantis said.

Paladino on Friday said he was made aware of Elia's decision by his lawyer, Dennis Vacco.

"My reaction is she did the right thing," said Paladino. "They don't like having me around. It's too bad for them."

Outrage and calls for Paladino to resign grow over Obama comments

Four separate petitions were filed over the past two weeks in the aftermath of Paladino's racially charged comments about former President Obama and his wife.

The petitions came from:

  • The School Board.
  • The Buffalo Teachers Federation and its parent organization, 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.

The School Board and District Parent Coordinating Council also requested the "stay" order from Elia.

Paladino has 20 days from the time the state received a petition to respond to the allegations against him. 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.

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

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

Paladino, in an article published in Artvoice, reportedly 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, which filed the petition on behalf of five Buffalo teachers, made the same argument, but also argued 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 educational 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, meanwhile, asked the commissioner to put the school district in receivership, which would take the nine-member School Board out of the picture and allow Superintendent Kriner Cash to take control.

In a brief phone interview Friday night, Paladino said board members and others were dying to keep him away from meetings because "I expose the underbelly of the beast."

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