MAYFIELD — The Mayfield Central School District confirmed Monday that a district employee referenced in a statement released Saturday by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, “after numerous constituents” brought the alleged issue to her attention Friday night, issued a news release Saturday titled “Statement on New York’s Wrongful Firing of Fulton County Pre-K Teacher Over Personal Facebook Post Regarding Hochul’s Mask Mandate.” However, Stefanik’s social media post on the topic characterized the disciplinary situation with the preschool teacher as an “administrative leave,” without reference to whether or not it was paid leave.
“This widely respected pre-K teacher was outrageously escorted from her classroom and is no longer allowed on school property pending an investigation,” reads Stefanik’s Facebook post Saturday.
Since Stefanik’s initial statement, officials with the Mayfield Central School District have refuted parts of it, saying no district teacher has been fired and calling her comments “misleading and inaccurate.”
“Ms. Stefanik’s allegation that a teacher has been placed on administrative leave for ‘sharing one of [Representative Stefanik’s] Facebook posts’ regarding the mask mandate also is inaccurate,” reads the district’s statement. “We will not comment further as this is a personnel matter.”
Capital Region BOCES Communications Specialist Betsy DeMars, speaking on behalf of Mayfield Monday, said the district is frustrated because the rules regarding school district personnel issues limit what the district can say about them publically, while Stefanik and others including Mayfield Village Mayor Jamie Ward are free to make specific public allegations, knowing full well the school is unable to comment on them.
However, DeMars was able to provide one update.
“This is a paid administrative leave,” she said.
In a New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) document titled “Legal Issues School Board Members May Encounter,” the disciplinary process and potential termination for tenured teachers is explained in detail, including that suspended tenured teachers are often granted full pay and benefits pending the outcome of either a 3020-a or 3020-b hearing to evaluate any charges from the district that could result in the tenured teacher’s termination.
It was not clear Monday whether Mayfield’s Pre-K teacher position is tenured or eligible for membership in the district’s teachers’ union.
On Sunday, Mayfield Mayor Jamie Ward told the Leader-Herald that the woman placed on paid administrative leave is named “Carey Lizzio” and that he had seen a social media campaign with a hashtag promoting her continued employment.
Ward, on his own Facebook page, reposted a post from a Facebook profile page with the name “Erica Hime” that had outlined the allegation that “Mrs. Lizzio” had been “sticking up for her own birthed children and our children of the district.” Hime claims in the post that Lizzio was “PUNISHED for using her PERSONAL PRIVATE Facebook page,” but offered no specific evidence that this was true. The Hime post urged people to call Elise Stefanik and offered a phone number to do so.
The Hime Facebook profile did not respond to an interview request for this story.
Ward told the Leader-Herald on Sunday that he had personnally spoken to Lizzio. He said that she told him she was suspended for something she shared on Facebook. He also said that Lizzio told him the school district had not told her what triggered the suspension. Ward claimed he had seen Lizzio’s Facebook page with the reposting of a Stefanik post, but that page has since been deleted. In his own post regarding the controversy, he urged the public to contact the members of the Mayfield Central School District School Board, providing their email addresses.
None of the members of the Mayfield School Board responded to interview requests for this story.
Ward did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story on Monday. According to his Facebook page, Ward was at Albany International Airport on Friday, “Heading to Florida, meeting Governor DeSantis’s Cabinet on Cybersecurity.”
The next Mayfield Central School District Board of Education meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Jr./Sr. High School library.