It’s hard to imagine a more volatile time than the last two weeks in the Hamburg Central School District:
• The superintendent abruptly resigned, then the School Board put him on administrative leave.
• The board ended a civil lawsuit over a secret recording in which the district tried to unmask an anonymous blogger.
• The organizer of a private summer school canceled the session because of the lack of a superintendent.
• Yet another secret taping surfaced, along with charges of inaccurate campaign filings.
The latest tape is reportedly a conversation between a School Board candidate and a supporter, discussing campaign finances, sources inside and outside the district said. The new tape was delivered anonymously to some community members.
This new tape also was discussed by Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch when he met June 24 with three newly elected board members who took office last week. And that meeting played a part in his decision to retire Aug. 9.
“I think that confirmed a decision that I was most of the way there with,” Achramovitch said. “Based on our meeting on Monday, it confirmed for me I was going to retire.”
Achramovitch said he had a duty to disclose the information on the tape to the School Board, which he did, and to the three incoming School Board members. He said he also filed a complaint with the state Attorney General’s Office.
“A significant concern had been brought to my attention, which indicated the candidates may have filed inaccurate or incorrect financial disclosures with the district,” he said.
The three candidates, Laura Heeter, Catherine Schrauth Forcucci and David Yoviene, said their filings are correct, and vehemently deny any wrongdoing.
“I have six children and a husband,” Heeter said. “There is no way I would embarrass myself in the community by doing something stupid like this.”
Yoviene said he also stands by the disclosure forms, which he called “pristine.”
He said the three candidates ran as a team and evenly split most of the costs. He also donated money to Heeter and Schrauth Forcucci.
He said he thought the meeting was to be an orientation, and he was surprised to hear of the superintendent’s resignation two days later.
One of the casualties of the uncertainty is a private summer school program.
Sharon Raymond, a parent, said in a letter to parents that she developed the Hamburg Horizons program with the support of School Board members and ran it the past two summers. Parents pay tuition, which support the cost of teachers and scholarships for those who can’t afford tuition.
“Now that the leadership of Superintendent Achramovitch is gone, I am going to cancel the school this year as I have no one to work within the district with no leader named to take his place,” she wrote.
The program was to run from Monday through Aug. 9.
Board Member Sally Stephenson said she learned the program was being canceled last Wednesday.
She said several retired teachers offered to help run it, but no one could reach Raymond. That left the district with no information on who was teaching what courses, or who the students are, since it was a privately run program.
“It’s obviously a disappointment to the parents,” Stephenson said.
Some of the parents may appear at the board’s reorganizational meeting Tuesday evening.
At that meeting, the School Board will choose a president and vice president, and possibly announce its plans for replacing the superintendent.
“I would like to have an interim superintendent appointed,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson brought attorney James D. Tresmond forward to be the new legal counsel for the district, noting that he is a certified administrator, and he was hired. But Tresmond, the former principal at Masten Park Secure Center, said he will not be the interim or permanent superintendent.
Tresmond’s resume states he has practiced criminal defense, real estate, DWI and civil litigation. He also has filed a class-action lawsuit against New York’s SAFE Act gun control legislation.
Much of the tumult in the district stems from a School Board meeting that happened to be the first Achramovitch attended as interim superintendent on Sept. 21, 2010.
The meeting is notable, because someone secretly recorded the executive session and distributed the recording to various members of the community. A State Supreme Court judge later deemed that executive session to have been illegally convened.
Then last June, the old School Board initiated a lawsuit, seeking damages from Stephenson, her daughter, Lindsey, who was terminated as a probationary teacher that night, and current teacher Martha Kavanaugh, claiming they taped the session. They deny they taped the meeting.
Last week, the new School Board voted to discontinue the district’s involvement in that lawsuit, and the board dropped Harris Beach as the district’s law firm.