An East Aurora high school teacher arrested in December on a misdemeanor cocaine possession charge has resigned his tenured position but will receive an undisclosed separation agreement.
Ryan J. Ellis, 36, of North Tonawanda, submitted his resignation, even though the charge was recently dropped because prosecutors said police violated his rights. He has been on paid leave since his Dec. 3 arrest in Buffalo, where police said they found crack cocaine in his vehicle.
The School Board accepted his resignation as an industrial arts teacher, effective July 1. He remains on paid leave until then, the district said.
The board also unanimously gave its permission to Superintendent Brian D. Russ to sign a separation agreement with Ellis.
“We’re pleased to be able to move forward,” Russ said, declining to disclose the separation terms.
In early December, school officials said they were shocked to learn that Ellis had been arrested on the cocaine charge and that he had previous brushes with the law.
He had been convicted of misdemeanor drug possession in 2000 at a North Tonawanda party he attended where a fatal drug overdose occurred. Records showed he pleaded guilty to seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was one of several people charged with bringing the drug Ecstasy to the party.
He began working for East Aurora schools in 2003. The district said he had cleared background checks with the state Education Department and was hired. When he was arrested, the district began an internal investigation and said it advised the state Education Department of the arrest.
But in mid-January, a prosecutor requested that the cocaine possession charge against Ellis be dropped. District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said police had violated his constitutional rights, and because of that, the cocaine and Ellis’ statement would not have been admitted in court.
The School Board in January voted to terminate Ellis’ probationary science appointment, though he remained on paid leave as a tenured technology teacher. The ending of his probationary science appointment had been scheduled to kick in today. He is certified in both technology and science but had been teaching more physics this year.
Because of the early termination of Ellis’ science appointment, School Board President Daniel Brunson said Wednesday that his resignation as an industrial arts/technology teacher supersedes the termination of the science appointment.
“Rather than be terminated, this is a full resignation of his [technology] position,” Brunson said in response to questions from board member Stephen Zagrobelny.
Ellis also had two earlier convictions for driving while intoxicated, pleading guilty in 2006 in Amherst Town Court and in 2009 in Tonawanda City Court.
In both those cases, he received conditional discharges, and his driver’s license was revoked, according to court records.
Ellis could not be reached to comment. A man who answered the phone at his home said, “He doesn’t want to talk.”