GLOVERSVILLE - The city school board plans to file a petition with the state to remove board President Pete Semione from his officer's position and the board.
The board, alleging misconduct by Semione, voted 5-3 Monday to send the petition to state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. for a decision.
The board chose not to use the school district's attorney, James E. Girvin, in the matter. Instead, the board will find an outside law firm to represent the board. The board plans to vote on hiring an attorney at the next monthly meeting Nov. 13.
Gloversville Board of Education member Polly Peck talks during Monday’s Board of Education meeting. At left is board member Robert Curtis.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
The petition will be submitted after the approval of the attorney at the November meeting. At that time, the accusations against Semione will become available to the public, said school board member Joseph Andrews.
Board members Monday provided few specifics about their accusations. However, member Polly Peck alleged Semione was bullying other members.
"To allow the president of our board to bully, call people despicable names, say that he is going to take down the board and that it is 'his' board and he holds a blackmail list is unacceptable," Peck said.
How they voted
Here is how members of the Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education voted on the petition to remove the board President Peter Semione.
E. Lynn Brown
The issue over Semione stems from the September board meeting, when member Robert Curtis said Semione should step down and the board should raise its standards for accountability.
Curtis said at that time the board would be unable to effectively address the serious issues facing the district under the current president.
At the start of the meeting Monday, board Vice President Frank Carangelo filed a motion to go into closed executive session to discuss legal matters with the district's attorney, but the board voted to deny the motion.
Board member Jean LaPorta motioned to have the bulk of the duties of the president transferred to the vice president for the remainder of the school year, but the board denied that motion.
Andrews followed that vote with the resolution to proceed with the petition under section 306 of the education law to have Semione removed from the board and as president.
Andrews' motion was approved by all board members present with the exception of Richard Carlson, E. Lynn Brown and Jean LaPorta. Semione did not attend the meeting.
"When you have constant non-communication and you are threatened when just trying to get to the bottom of an issue at hand, you cannot function as a board," said Andrews. "We are at a point now where the atrocities are still being committed and we can no longer stand for it. Just look at the results; we have a 53 percent graduation rate and some of this is a direct reflection of our leadership. For the students, we take the difficult road to pursue educational excellence and get the results that we are not getting because someone stands in our way."
Carlson said he has tried to keep an open mind on the issue, but from his understanding, removing a person from the board presidency is an extraordinary measure that requires extraordinary circumstances. He said from what he has heard, he doesn't think what Semione has done or said had crossed the line to warrant removal.
"To me, it seems like a classic 'he said this, he said that' situation, with the truth probably being somewhere in the middle," Carlson said during the meeting.
LaPorta said she brought up her resolution and voted against the resolution to petition for Semione's removal because the board has a responsibility to hold itself accountable and believes the board is capable of taking care of the issue on its own.
"I know that a lot of feelings were hurt, but in my mind, it has become more of a power struggle than the original issues called for, and that is why I didn't want it to head in this direction," said LaPorta.
Board member Peck responded to the members who voted against the petition. She said she takes some offense to the issue being classified as "he said, she said" because she had a 45-minute phone conversation with the president that validated accusations against him.
Peck said, "I have nothing more to say to Pete, but I am not a dishonest person, and if I go down as the person that gets rid of the bosses because he didn't agree with what she said, then I guess you guys will have to believe it. But I was brought up with integrity and self-worth, and I am offended by the talk of 'he said, she said.'"
She said she feels bad for the position this will put the superintendent in, but she said when the leader of the board is less than transparent about things that are false, she cannot stand for it.
Although Semione was not in attendance, he did have a representative of the district hand out a prepared statement regarding the accusations against him and the resolution to file the petition.
"Very disappointedly, certain board members continue to put their personal agendas ahead of the needs of the students, staff and taxpayers of the district," Semione said in the prepared statement.
Semione was elected to a three-year term in May. Each July, the board decides on a new board president.
It remains unclear at this time whether the petition will be answered before the election for board president, but the board is seeking to have Semione removed from the board altogether.
District resident Pat Ashbey, who attended Monday's meeting, said after the meeting she is pleased to see the board taking action against Semione.
"He has been taking advantage of the district for awhile now, and it's about time he answers to that," said Ashbey. "If he really didn't do anything wrong, where is he every time it comes to question?"
Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.