Decision Reveals Why Depew Fired Elementary Principal

11:59 PM, Jan 19, 2013   |    comments
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DEPEW, N.Y. - More information has surfaced about a local school principal who was fired from his job.

According to documents 2 On Your Side obtained from the Depew Union Free School District, an arbitrator has found that the man who was in charge of the village's elementary school for more than 10 years engaged in multiple types of misconduct.

In December of 2011, Principal Robert Puchalski of Cayuga Heights Elementary was suddenly gone from his job. At the time, the Depew School District described it as an unexpected, long-term absence.

We now know he was suspended. We also know why.

According to the arbitration decision released this week, the district was able to prove Principal Puchalski violated all sorts of district rules. Several involve the handling of money. The district documented seven times Puchalski collected money from students or others for field trips or school-related purchases, but then failed to deposit the full amount he collected into the proper school account.

And there were more violations. According to the arbitrator's report, during a two and a half-year period, Principal Puchalski spent more than 17,000 minutes on the phone at school with two women who, at times, were employed by the school. And the school district suspects he was romantically involved with both women.

Puchalski made some of the calls from a school storage room, according to the report.

The arbitrator's decision said: "On March 15, 2010, he spent 2 hours 52 min. and 18 seconds on the phone with (the women), which amounts to approximately half of the school day." According to the decision, the district also proved Puchalski exchanged emails with the women using his school account. Some of emails, according to the district, ". . . are so bold as to directly reference sexual acts," the decision indicated.

The district also accused Puchalski of essentially bullying students. In the decision, a teacher said Puchalski came into her classroom room to wish a student happy birthday while the student was taking a test. The decision said that Puchalski "...proceeded to pick up the students test . . . saying, this was wrong, this was wrong, this was wrong, this was wrong, looked up from the test paper, looked at me, and said. . . is this student even smart?"

While Puchalski denied and disputed all of these allegations, the arbitrator said the district proved the charges against him with "overwhelming and convincing evidence," which warranted his firing.

We were unable to reach Principal Puchalski for comment Friday, but we did leave him a message.

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