School official’s duties to be shared

GLOVERSVILLE – City school district Superintendent Michael Vanyo said district administrators, including himself, will temporarily share the duties of administrator Frank Pickus, who was arrested Sunday on drug charges.

Pickus, Gloversville Enlarged School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, was charged by Colonie police with being in possession of methamphetamine after a traffic stop, police said.

The school district has since placed Pickus on paid leave.

Vanyo said Pickus is a “jack of all trades” at the district in his role as assistant superintendent. The job includes working directly with principals and teachers, developing and improving specific curriculum such as reading and writing programs, overseeing grade-level meetings and overseeing grants for the district.

“I don’t think people realize how much he did,” Vanyo said of Pickus, who has worked for the district for more than 20 years. “Right now, we are just one day into where we go from here. Everybody is always innocent until proven guilty, so right now, he is on leave and we will try to work on things and try to do the best we can. We are going to continue business as usual.”

Pickus, 57, of 16 Moore Ave., Saratoga Springs, was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal use of drug paraphernalia, both misdemeanors, and traffic infractions.

Vanyo said he is leaving questions and messages from students about Pickus to each building administrator.

“We haven’t been able to deal with it because we don’t want to get too far ahead,” Vanyo said. “It’s a personnel issue and we have to be very careful in dealing with personnel issues because people have rights.”

The superintendent sent a letter home to parents notifying them of the arrest. No mention of the drug charges was included in the letter.

In part, Vanyo’s letter states, “I want to reassure you [Pickus’] absence will not affect the day-to-day operations of the district and our schools.

“Because this is both a personnel and legal matter, we are unable to provide any further information at this time. We ask everyone in the school community to avoid speculating about the circumstances of this incident, and instead focus our attention on the important task of educating our students.

“We appreciate your patience and understanding as the investigation continues. If you have any concerns, please contact your building principal or the district office,” Vanyo said in the letter.

Vanyo declined to comment on whether the district has a drug-screening process for district employees.

“We follow the same [rules] as other schools do,” Vanyo said. “You can figure that one out. I’m not going to answer that … I will tell you that bus drivers are all checked on a regular basis.”

According to Colonie police Lt. Robert Winn, Pickus was stopped around 6:14 p.m. Sunday in the parking lot of Starbucks on Troy Schenectady Road after being stopped for traffic offenses.

Officers found he was in possession of a small quantity of methamphetamine along with other drug paraphernalia, Winn said.

Officers on the scene determined Pickus wasn’t impaired.

Winn said the search of Pickus and his vehicle could have been the result of several situations, including how Pickus was reacting to questions and the fact he was operating an unregistered vehicle, which requires it to be towed and an inventory search of the vehicle to be conducted.

He said he wasn’t aware at which point the search occurred, but he said one bag was found on Pickus while another bag and the paraphernalia was found in the automobile.

Winn said the aggregate weight of the controlled substance, including the bags, was 4.2 grams.

Pickus was released on an appearance ticket.

Vanyo said the district has decided to cancel a “community conversation” forum that was scheduled for today, but that was the result of parents not registering beforehand and had nothing to do with the arrest.

The district previously approved a new contract for Pickus that will increase his current salary by 2 percent every year until the 2015-16 school year, according to the contract.

According to the contract, he also receives the coverage of the district’s health insurance plan from 2013-16, and the district will contribute 75 percent of the cost of the chosen coverage.

Pickus also is a board member of the local ASAPP’s Promise, which promotes healthy lifestyles and aims to reduce alcohol and substance abuse.

Pickus’ position as a board member will be discussed at the next meeting in April, ASAPP’s Promise coordinator Rachel Truckenmiller said.

“The board will have to talk about it,” Truckenmiller said.

She said Pickus has served as a board member for the last three years, but wasn’t involved with any surveys distributed to the students. She said he was brought onto the board because of his experience with handling numbers and data.

Pickus is due to appear for arraignment before Judge Peter Crummey in Colonie Town Court at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Pickus could not be reached for comment.