Former middle school math teacher Brenda McClaine has resigned from the school district following her felony conviction for stealing from the Guilderland Teachers’ Association.
The Guilderland Board of Education unanimously approved McClaine’s resignation agreement during a special meeting on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 10. McClaine’s resignation was effective Nov. 21. She was previously convicted of stealing more than $100,000 from the teachers’ union.
“I think it was the best possible resolution for all parties,” Guilderland Superintendent of Schools Marie Wiles said Friday, Dec. 12.
Under the agreement, the school district will continue providing McClaine health insurance until June 30, 2015. If McClaine is enrolled in a family plan, it’s roughly an $18,000 benefit annually with the district covering 80 percent of that expense.
Wiles said providing McClaine health insurance for the rest of this school year would be less expensive than continuing the termination proceedings against her. A hearing officer could have instead made a binding decision in opposition to the district’s charges against her.
“You are rolling the dice a little bit there, with the judgment of a hearing officer,” said Wiles.
The district also agreed to continue letting her children attend elementary school tuition free for this school year. Her family moved outside of the district over the summer, according to Wiles.
“It seems to be the right thing to do, not to make children pay the price,” said Wiles.
District employees are allowed to have their children attend the district without facing typical out-of-district tuition fees and residency policies. The district isn’t required to keep the children enrolled, who are in fifth-grade, but Wiles said the district intends to let them stay enrolled.
Spotlight News filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to obtain the resignation agreement.
McClaine had served as treasurer of the Guilderland Teachers’ Association during the 2012-13 school year. Between Aug. 13, 2012, and Oct. 28, 2013, she pilfered approximately $100,382.50 from the union. Authorities said McClaine forged the union president’s name on checks and collected dues from members that were illegally deposited into her personal bank account.
The Guilderland Teachers’ Association is the district’s largest bargaining group and covers around 450 staff members, which includes teachers, social workers, school counselors, psychologists, nurses and other staff members.
On Nov. 14, McClaine was sentenced to serve six months in the Albany County Correctional Facility, followed by five years of felony probation. McClaine repaid the union funds she stole before pleading guilty to grand larceny in the third degree on Sept. 9.
Wiles had filed disciplinary charges against McClaine, which led the school board on Sept. 23 to start the hearing process required by state Education Law for tenured teachers to be terminated.
Judge Stephen Herrick is allowing McClaine to serve her six-month sentence through reporting to the county jail on weekends. She would arrive to the jail each Friday evening and then be released on Sunday evening. This does not reduce McClaine’s sentence, but allows it to be served over a longer time frame.
McClaine joined the school district in 1999 as a combined eighth-grade math and science teacher. She received tenure in 2002, teaching math for several years at Farnsworth Middle School. Most recently, she worked with approximately 70 students in grades 6, 7, and 8 in an Academic Intervention Services classroom setting.
Shortly after police released evidence, she was reassigned to the district office. She was then placed on paid administrative leave following her arrest. Wiles said she eventually returned to working in the district office before her resignation.
A certified math teacher had been covering McClaine’s classroom duties. The school board was scheduled to vote on making the replacement teacher a probationary employee at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 16.
“We had gone through a complete and thorough hiring process for that position,” said Wiles.