B U F F A L O N E W S
Cannata never sent form to get certification
By MARY B. PASCIAK
News Northtowns Bureau
Frank Cannata avoided reporting his arrest.
All Frank J. Cannata needed to do to keep his certification as an elementary school principal was send the state $20 and fill out a seven-page form.
But that form would have required him to disclose a 1999 conviction for driving while impaired, and another a few months later that year of driving while intoxicated.
He never submitted the form - and never got the piece of paper that would have authorized him to continue working as a principal, according to Donald A. Ogilvie, superintendent of Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
Cannata earned a provisional administrative certificate in September 1994. It expired five years later, state records show.
Two years after it expired, in June 2001, school officials told him to go to Erie 1 BOCES to apply for his permanent certificate, which he needed when he came up for tenure in December 2001, Ogilvie said.
BOCES issued Cannata a letter saying he had fulfilled the requirements for a permanent certificate and that his paperwork would be sent to the state Education Department, according to Tracie L. Lopardi of Hodgson Russ, the school district's attorney. The certificate would be backdated to September 1999 - a common practice in New York, she said.
The BOCES certification officer gave Cannata a blank application and told him to fill it out and return it by the end of the day, along with a $20 check, Ogilvie said. That didn't happen, so she never forwarded his paperwork to Albany, he said.
One of the seven questions in the "moral character determination" section in the application asks whether the applicant has ever been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor other than minor traffic violations. The form must be notarized.
"If he had filled out the form and had to reveal the convictions, it would have red-flagged it," Ogilvie said.
Cannata, now 40, did not submit the application and never got a permanent certificate, Ogilvie said. The school board in December 2001 granted tenure to Cannata, principal of Charlotte Sidway Elementary School.
He was suspended with pay in December, after federal agents charged him with drug possession. He was stripped of his salary this month, when school officials discovered he had been working without a permanent certificate since 1999, Lopardi said.
The district will not try to recoup the money he was paid from 1999 to December 2004, she said.
Officials, however, may try to recoup the pay and benefits he received since he was arrested two months ago, Lopardi said.