Suspended Principal Escapes Jail Time

Posted by:  Robyn Young, Reporter  
Created: 9/28/2005 12:14:04 PM
Updated: 9/28/2005 12:57:48 PM

A suspended Grand Island elementary school principal, who admitted to drug possession, has escaped jail time.

Frank Cannata, 41, was sentenced Wednesday morning by U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. to two years of probation, plus drug counseling and testing. He could have received up to one year behind bars. The sentence includes no fines, however, Cannata will have to pay for part of his drug treatment.

Speaking in court, Cannata apologized to his family, parents of Sidway Elementary School, and the entire school and church community. He said he made some bad decisions to deal with stress in his life.

Cannata was arrested last December after investigators found small amounts of Ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine in his Buffalo apartment, part of an investigation into Buffalo nightspots. Prosecutors said the investigators found no evidence that Cannata dealt drugs, used them at school, or that his use involved students.

Judge Schroeder spoke at length, saying it was a difficult case from a sentencing perspective, because Cannata had such a high profile life, being elected to the Grand Island School Board at age 18, later becomming president of the board, and serving as a church music director as well as principal at Sidway Elementary. However, Judge Schroeder said Cannata in effect victimized the children with whom he worked when they found out "this wonderful, loved person apparently lead a second life."

Judge Schroeder also told Cannata he did not accept his explanation that his drug and alcohol use, (Cannata has two DWI convictions), were caused solely because of stress in his life involving a custody battle with his son.

In the end, Judge Schroeder told Cannata he still has many talents to contribute to the community, and agreed to deviate from advisory sentencing guidelines, choosing probation over jail time.

The sentence takes into account Cannata's completion of drug rehabilitation and his passing 13 random tests, with ongoing counseling.

After the sentencing, Cannata and his attorney declined to comment. One family member would only say, "we're obviously pleased."

Cannata is still technically suspended without pay from his job at Sidway, according to the school district attorney, David Farmelo. Farmelo said Cannata could not be reinstated as principal because he never obtained the permanent state certification required to work as a tenured principal. When asked if he might be considered for another position, Farmelo said there have been ongoing discussions about his employment, but that he was not aware of any plans.