Well protected

Members of the Jordan-Elbridge community have repeatedly asked school board members to resign since the paid suspension of tenured Principal David Zehner just days into the 2010-11 school year.

According to Frank Miller, attorney for J-E schools, all they can do is ask.

In his 32 years of experience in school law, Miller has witnessed multiple petitions filed with the New York State Department of Education Commissioner for removal of school board members - all of them unsuccessful.

"I have yet to see a circumstance where a petition of that nature was actually upheld," Miller said.

Any orders to have board members removed must come from the Commissioner of Education David Steiner, Miller said. He added that removal would require "very serious misconduct, malfeasance in office, or violating a law in some manner," none of which he feels the board is guilty of.

"The commissioner knows and the law recognizes that these folks are going to be involved in making very difficult decisions," Miller said.

Residents have been upset by multiple personnel decisions made by the board, such as the paid suspension of tenured assistant superintendent for business and finance Bill Hamilton in July, the firing of district treasurer Anthony Scro in September, the forced early retirement of Superintendent Marilyn Dominick in November - all of which have been contested publicly by the affected employee or administrator - and multiple violations of open meetings law. The board's closed-door appointment of Sue Gorton, the district's assistant superintendent of instruction, to interim superintendent in July was taken to court by suspended principal David Zehner and ruled void.

Zehner has asked board members to resign at public board meetings since his suspension. He said the commissioner only removes board members at persistently low achieving schools.

He said about 12 schools in New York State are labeled "low achieving" - and J-E is far from one of them.

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