W G R Z . COM
Suspended Principal Escapes Jail Time
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
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.