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Education commissioner denies board member removal

HAMBURG — Hamburg community member Daniel Chiacchia filed a petition with the New York state education commissioner for the removal of Hamburg School Board of Education members Sally Stephenson and Holly Balaya, in November.

In a March 10 decision, Commissioner John King denied Chiacchia’s petition, saying that the majority of the points at issue were outside of the realm of timeliness, in that appeals to the commissioner must be commenced within 30 days from the reported acts.

“While we were certainly hoping for another outcome, the decision does not come as a surprise to us, as we were fully aware of the commissioner’s history of almost never removing a board member for alleged violations of policy,” Chiacchia said.

More than 1,400 citizen signatures were gathered for this petition. Members of Hamburg Education Information said that they believe this endeavor has raised community awareness about dysfunction in the local school district.

The decision that was handed down by King included the following statement: “Although the application must be denied as described above, I note that the history of dissension and conflict affecting the Hamburg Central School District is well documented by the numerous legal actions in recent years, involving the district. The record before me illustrates all too well how conflict and an atmosphere of this nature can interfere with the board’s ability to govern the affairs of district and can undermine the public’s confidence in its elected school board. I strongly urge respondents and the board to engage in constructive discussions – not only as a board, but also with district staff and the community – aimed at eliminating conflict and achieving the best possible governance of the school district.”

Members of Hamburg Education Information have said that they will work together as a community, by strengthening the Hamburg Central School District, working together with administrators, educators and board members and holding all accountable.

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