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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 12, 2009

Investigation complete, Petrilli resigns

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — After almost seven months on paid leave, Mary Petrilli, long-time principal at Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School, has officially resigned. The school board unanimously accepted her resignation at its March 2 meeting.

“It was a mutual agreement between the district and Ms. Petrilli,” Superintendent Steve Schrade told The Enterprise of why she is resigning now. She will be paid through June 29, when her resignation takes effect.

Petrilli was put on medical leave in October 2007. She returned to her $73,000-a-year job in July, but was arrested at her home on Aug. 9 for menacing and possession of a weapon.

The board held a special meeting on Aug. 11, 2008, and, after an hour-long executive session, placed Petrilli on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

“The investigation has been completed for some time,” Schrade said last week. “It was conclusive enough that the district decided to file charges and start the process for dismissal.”

Following the investigation, the district filed charges with the New York State Education Department against Petrilli, and began a 3020A proceeding, the process for taking disciplinary action against a tenured employee, Schrade said.

The cost of this proceeding is “probably over $30,000,” Schrade said. “When we receive our February bill, we’ll know the total cost.”

The 3020A proceeding is “still underway,” said Jane Briggs, spokesperson for the education department. “Because of that, we can’t comment,” she said. If the employee is not found guilty, then those charges are not public information.

On why the proceeding continues after Petrilli’s resignation, BKW’s attorney, Beth Bourassa, said this week, “Leaving the charges pending, though not active, allows [Petrilli] to remain suspended with pay. Otherwise, she would be able to come back to work before the effective date of her retirement.”

There is currently no active litigation, Bourassa said, “and no further district funds going towards the matter,” she said.

Neither Petrilli, nor her attorney, John Kershko, could be reached for comment.

Any disciplinary action has been “put on hold until [Petrilli’s] actual date of retirement,” Schrade said, “and will probably then be dropped.”

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