Several parents asked three Hamburg Central School Board members to end the chaos in the district and resign Tuesday night.
Continuing controversy involving several board members and residents of the community has thrown the district into a chaotic spin that many believe will make it difficult to hire a new superintendent.
“I am asking that members of this board that brought shame and disgrace on the school district and community, bring an end to this chaos and resign,” said Anne DiMatteo, who said she was a concerned citizen and community and school volunteer. “Please let the district at least have a chance at attracting a quality superintendent. Let our teachers get out of the courtroom and into the classroom and give our students the opportunity to learn what they deserve.”
Board members listened but did not comment on the speakers, who included Daniel J. Chiacchia, a parent and attorney who has filed formal petitions with the state education commissioner to remove board members Sally A. Stephenson and Holly A. Balaya.
Chiacchia also is a leader of a parents group collecting signatures on petitions to remove Stephenson, Balaya and board member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci. More than 800 signatures have been obtained, and the group attracted more than 300 people at its last meeting last week.
“If certain adults, especially some adults on this board, would take accountability and responsibility for their actions, maybe even some of them step down, then we can start to come together as a community and be one again,” Chiacchia said.
His statement was followed by 30 seconds of applause.
More than 175 people attended Tuesday’s board meeting in Union-Pleasant Elementary School, sometimes calling out retorts to the board members and commenting about the meeting.
“Is there one down the street? Because this is a joke,” one man yelled about the meeting, after the board president explained that the public was there to watch the session but not to participate in it at that particular time.
An attempt to add an item to the agenda to put a teacher on paid administrative leave did not gain enough votes, with board President David M. Yoviene and Schrauth Forcucci opposed, and Stephenson and Balaya abstaining. While the teacher was not identified by the district, parents said she was Martha Kavanaugh, who has been on sick leave since October.
After that vote, someone from the audience yelled, “Where’s our vote?” to thunderous applause.
The remaining board members voted unanimously to pay to defend Stephenson and Balaya against the petition seeking their removal, with Stephenson and Balaya abstaining.
It was Stephenson’s and Balaya’s votes on providing the same type of legal representation to a former board member and superintendent that was cited in the petition to the state education commissioner seeking their removal.
Chiacchia’s petition to Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said the two board members had a conflict of interest that they did not disclose on that and another resolution.
Stephenson voted against and Balaya voted in favor of paying for legal representation for former Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch and former board President Joan G. Calkins on a complaint filed with the state Division of Human Rights.
Also Tuesday night, Schrauth Forcucci said she wanted to know what policy or regulation allows the superintendent to ban a board member from the administration building. She was asked to leave the administration building in September by Superintendent Richard E. Jetter and then police after she went to ask for information on the district’s legal bills.
“It is under my discretion to make a decision about the safety of the administration building,” Jetter said.
He said the district’s code of conduct, which applies to parents, staff and visitors, as well as students, gives him the ability to keep out people who might cause a danger.
Schrauth Forcucci said after the meeting that she has never been notified officially that she cannot go into the building, but learned it when she obtained documents about the incident through the Freedom of Information Law.