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Principal's certification expired in 1999
News Northtowns Bureau
The Grand Island principal facing federal drug charges held a provisional certificate when he was hired in 1998 - but it expired five years ago, according to state records.

Frank J. Cannata's administrative certificate expired in September 1999, nine months after he was hired as principal of Charlotte Sidway Elementary School, state records indicate. Since then, he worked in that position without a permanent certificate.

The School Board granted Cannata tenure in 2001. Superintendent Thomas Ramming had no comment, instead directing questions to Tracie L. Lopardi, an attorney with Hodgson Russ. When the board granted Cannata tenure, "the board had the understanding he had applied for permanent certification. That information was not accurate," Lopardi said. "He was working even though he was not authorized to."

Paul D. Fields was superintendent when Cannata was hired and given tenure. Fields, who is now director of Canisius College's educational leadership program, declined to comment.

Cannata, 40, was suspended with pay in December after federal agents charged him with possessing Ecstasy and methamphetamine. Grand Island school officials did not find out that Cannata never got his permanent certificate until some time after Feb. 7, Lopardi said. When the information surfaced, the district began withholding his $97,000 salary.

State law prohibits districts from paying someone to work in a position they are not certified to hold.

Lopardi said there is no legal precedent establishing whether a district is entitled to recoup back pay in this type of situation. Grand Island officials do not intend to pursue such action, she said.

Cannata holds permanent certificates in elementary education and secondary English. Teaching certificates are separate from those for administrative jobs. Cannata also faces local charges dating back to 2003 of violating an order of protection and endangering the welfare of a child.

He has not responded to numerous phone messages.