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Farkas abruptly resigns from Schenectady school board

Friday, October 5, 2012
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— Gary Farkas, the only remaining member of the Schenectady City School District Board of Education to hold his seat through the Steven Raucci scandal, abruptly announced his resignation Thursday, leaving nearly two years left in his term.

Farkas didn’t mention his looming resignation during the board’s regular business meeting Wednesday evening and did not give a reason when it was announced through a succinct news release issued by the district late Thursday afternoon. He served on the board since 2008 and was only four months into the second year of his second three-year term.

School board President Cathy Lewis said she knew little about the reasons behind the resignation and referred all questions to Farkas or Superintendent Laurence Spring. Spring did not return a call for comment Thursday, and district spokeswoman Karen Corona said he would not be commenting on the resignation.

The school board has the option to leave Farkas’ seat open until May, conduct a special election over the next 90 days or appoint someone to the vacancy until the election next spring. Board members are expected to discuss these options during their next meeting Oct. 17. “We need to look at all the possibilities,” Lewis said.

Farkas did not respond to calls for comment Thursday.

He was first voted onto the board unopposed during the 2008 election and was just finishing the first year of his term when Raucci, the former district facilities director, was arrested for detonating a homemade bomb at a Rotterdam residence. Raucci was later found to have used the explosive devices and other forms of vandalism in a campaign to intimate people he perceived as enemies.

At the time of Raucci’s arrest, the school board was tightly controlled by then-President Jeff Janiszewski, who worked closely with then-Superintendent Eric Ely, an ally of Raucci. Farkas and the five other board members conducted school business almost exclusively through Janiszewski, who served as a conduit for correspondences with various district officials.

Internal emails that were later publicized showed both Raucci and Ely regarded Farkas with a degree of disdain. In one e-mail, Raucci referred to Farkas as “Mr. Stupid” and advised Ely that Farkas needed to be “knocked back down a few pegs where he belongs.”

Ely responded by predicting a battle between him and Farkas. He also told Raucci that Farkas couldn’t be trusted.

As the Raucci scandal unfolded, board members who served during his reign were slowly removed from office either by resignation or by voters. Raucci was convicted of arson charges and is now serving up to life in prison at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora,

When Ely’s position came up for discussion, Farkas defended the embattled superintendent, arguing that it wasn’t fair to blame him for Raucci’s misdeeds. He also likened Raucci to “a hard-ass boss” and said he wasn’t convinced the disgraced facilities director was a criminal.

Farkas came up for re-election in May 2011 and sought an endorsement from Schenectady Citizens for Openness in Public Education, the group aimed at vetting school board candidates in an effort to avoid candidates like the ones who stood idle during the Raucci scandal. Farkas was not endorsed by the group, but won a second term anyway.

 
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