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Principal also relieved of church duties

The Grand Island elementary school principal who was suspended with pay after his arrest on drug charges last week has now been placed on temporary leave from his job as music director at St. Stephen's Catholic Church.

Frank Cannata, principal of Charlotte Sidway Elementary School, has played the organ and directed the choir at St. Stephen's for two decades. The Rev. Paul Nogaro, tHe church's pastor, said he decided to place Cannata on temporary leave after meeting with parishioners over the weekend.

"There was no vote," Nogaro said Tuesday. "I just asked for their advice, and the consensus was that this was the best solution at this point in time, until this whole issue is resolved. (Cannata) is still welcome back here, and he's still on our payroll," Nogaro said Tuesday.

Cannata, 40, was among 30 people arrested last week in a federal drug sweep, many of them accused of trafficking in Ecstasy and other party drugs in local nightclubs. Cannata is not accused of selling drugs, but agents who searched his Buffalo apartment said they found at least 5 grams of methamphetamines, 14 Ecstasy tablets and a glass pipe used for smoking methamphetamine.

The school district suspended Cannata shortly after being informed of his arrest. School officials said Cannata will continue to receive his $97,438 salary until the matter is resolved.

Meanwhile, two days before schools close for the Christmas holiday season, the Grand Island School Board plans to hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. todayin district headquarters, 1100 Ransom Road. Superintendent Thomas Ramming said the Cannata case is the only scheduled item on the agenda. "It's a personnel matter to be discussed in executive session. I'm not at liberty to say more," Ramming said Tuesday.

Cannata became the youngest person ever elected to the Grand Island School Board a year after he graduated from Grand Island High School in 1982. He served on the board for 14 years, including three years as president.

After earning both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Canisius College, Cannata worked as a principal in Gouverneur for two years before returning to his hometown to take the job at Sidway, which he has held for six years.