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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 31, 2008

Paolino placed on leave

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The new high school principal, Michael Paolino, was placed on paid administrative leave on Monday. The district isn’t saying why.

Paolino was appointed to the $110,000 post in September. He followed a string of short-term principals at Guilderland and said, in the fall, that, at age 35, he intended to have a long tenure at Guilderland.

He had been an associate principal at neighboring Voorheesville and had a standard three-year probationary appointment at Guilderland.

“It’s always been my ambition to become a building principal,” he told The Enterprise the night he was appointed by a unanimous vote of the board.  “I always strive to be the best I can be. I consider myself a natural-born leader.”

He introduced his wife and young twin sons to the board that night and said, “My family is accepting the position with me. We want to be part of the Guilderland community.”

According to Amy Zurlo, the district’s public information officer, an administrative leave is “an option the school district has if and when a concern regarding that administrator has been brought to our attention and ultimately the superintendent would make the decision if he believes it merits further review.”

She answered only in “general” terms and would not comment on what concerns had been raised about Paolino.

The superintendent, John McGuire, also new this past fall, was on vacation this week and not available for comment, Zurlo said. McGuire has come under fire as hundreds of students and former students have packed recent school board meetings, protesting the transfer of two popular high school teachers to the middle school. One student group has called for McGuire’s resignation. The board majority backed the superintendent’s decision.

Asked about the school board’s role in the decision on Paolino, Vice President John Dornbush said yesterday, “The board’s been briefed.”

He added, “Once again, it’s a personnel matter and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone to say anything right now.”

The board president, Richard Weisz, could not be reached for comment.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Susan Tangorre referred questions about Paolino’s leave to Zurlo.

Paolino could not be reached for comment.

Asked how long the leave is for, Zurlo said, “Until further notice; there’s not an end date.”

Asked why he was put on leave, Zurlo said, “That would fall under the confidential personnel matter so we really can’t talk about that.” She said it was district policy not to discuss confidential personnel matters.

When pressed to see if the reason for the leave involved matters of student safety, Zurlo checked with Tangorre and responded, “It is not a safety concern and it does not involve criminal actions.”

The Enterprise asked Maceo Dubose, the president of the Guilderland Teachers’ Association, if teachers had had problems with Paolino. “No teachers filed any grievances to my knowledge,” said Dubose. He added the only current grievances were from the two high school teachers being transferred to the middle school.

Asked if the district intends to replace Paolino, Zurlo said, “Honestly, at this time, we can’t really discuss those details.”

Asked who is filling in during Paolino’s leave, Zurlo said, “The other members of the high school administrative team, the assistant principals, are going to be sharing his responsibilities while he’s on leave.” She named Brian McCann, Brian Bailey, and Lisa Patierne.

The last long-term principal at Guilderland was John Whipple, who retired in 2003 after 14 years at the helm of the high school. He was replaced by Ismael Villafane who left after two years to return to Texas where he had spent decades as an educator. Frank Tedesco, a retired administrator who spent three decades in education, filled in until Michael Piccirillo was appointed in the fall of 2006. He left after 20 months to work as an assistant superintendent at Saratoga Springs. Harry Kachadurian, who had retired after 36 years in education, filled in until Paolino became principal last fall.

“I’m not looking at this as a short-term stepping-stone position,” Paolino told The Enterprise on the September night he was appointed. “I want to bring continuity.”

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