One angry school board president
If Gloversville School Board President Peter Semione said even half the things to three fellow board members they say he did, he shouldn’t be president. He shouldn’t even be on the board. That’s what a majority of the board thinks, and is trying to accomplish through a petition to the state education commissioner seeking Semione’s removal.
The allegations in the petition bring to mind Steve Raucci, former facilities manager in the Schenectady school district. Not the explosions Raucci set at the homes of those he felt had crossed him, for which he was convicted and is now behind bars, but the bullying, threats and other verbal intimidation he used to keep people in line and get his way.
Semione is in his fourth one-year term as president, having been re-elected to the office by the board in July. According to one of the board members named in the petition, there have been incidents in the past where Semione showed an autocratic, ugly side; but as long as the board went along with him, and it almost always did, everything was fine.
That changed this summer when a majority of the board, in response to a public outcry over a couple of music teacher transfers, wanted to hold a meeting and get more information. Semione, according to the petition, telephoned three of them, Joseph Andrews, Polly Peck and Frank Carangelo, expressing anger at their interference in the matter, yelling and screaming at Andrews and Carangelo and making belligerent, threatening statements to them all.
Not just one or two statements, but many. Not just a little belligerent and threatening, but very — such as, according to Andrews, “It is my f------ board,” and “I make all the decisions on the board, no one else,” and “If you dare challenge me ... I will kick your ass,” and “ [I] will ruin you and your whole family and see you all burn.”
Carangelo said Semione threatened the job of his son-in-law, who is a tennis coach in the district, and told Carangelo that he “had something” on all the board members and “... I’m going to bury you all.”
Peck, a former friend and ally of Semione who ran on the same ticket, said he talked about having a “blackmail list” that he would use to “expose” and “bring down” anyone who tried to challenge him. She said he also used profanity in describing what he would do to Carangelo and Andrews.
If true (and it’s unlikely that three people are just making it all up), this behavior, as the board said in its petition, went “far beyond any boundaries of usual political dissension and contentiousness.” The board had to do something, and Semione was asked to step down as president in the hope that taking power away from a megalomaniac would solve the problem. Semione refused.
So the board filed this petition, arguing that Semione’s behavior is not only threatening to board members and their families, but distracting to the board’s regular conduct of its business — which seems an understatement.
The Education Department is usually reluctant to remove board members, preferring to leave that to the electorate, but Semione’s conduct appears to be so egregious and disruptive that the board and district shouldn’t have to wait until his term expires in May 2015 to get rid of him. If the commissioner won’t remove Semione from the board, he should at least allow the board to remove him from the presidency. That would require a separate action, an action the board should be prepared to take.