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Pulaski schools leader in line to be next Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES superintendent

The superintendent for the Pulaski Central School District may be hired for Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES' highest position Thursday.

The BOCES board will vote on whether to appoint Brian K. Hartwell as its next superintendent, according to the agenda for Thursday's meeting posted on the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES website. If the board approves Hartwell, his employment will be effective May 21, 2018 to May 20, 2021.

The BOCES said it will not provide further information on Hartwell's possible hiring until Thursday. Hartwell has been the Pulaski superintendent since 2014 and had previously served as the principal of Oswego High School.

The potential appointment would be coming almost a year after the previous full-time superintendent, Denise Dzikowski, resigned in March 2017. Dzikowski had been in that position for less than a year. Chris Todd, who leads the BOCES in Oswego County, became the interim superintendent for the Cayuga-Onondaga district later that month. Over the summer, the state education department allowed the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES to start looking for a full-time leader after conducting a standard review of its operations.

When a BOCES superintendent leaves their position, an assessment is conducted by the state to determine if the affected BOCES should be restructured. That step must be done before a search for a replacement superintendent can start.

Todd served as a non-paid search consultant for the superintendent search.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES building, 1879 West Genesee Street Road, Aurelius.

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Concerns over basketball player’s removal brought to Auburn school board

AUBURN — The stepfather of an Auburn High School student taken off the Auburn boys basketball team addressed the school district board, saying he feels his stepson's code of conduct violation case was handled unfairly.

Al Brown told the Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday night that he felt his stepson, former basketball player Majesty Wilder, was singled out.

Brown had previously said a teacher reported seeing a cloud of electronic smoking device vapor from a bathroom Wilder and two other students were in on Feb. 6. Wilder was later told he had been removed from the team for violating the school's code of conduct.

Brown also said at the meeting he felt other code of conduct violations involving other students had been handled differently than Wilder's case, and that Wilder had been "picked out" out of three students.

"The way the whole process of elimination played out, I didn't agree with. I feel like he's being mistreated," Brown said.

Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo thanked Brown for his time when he finished speaking Tuesday night.

Pirozzolo had said on Friday that the district was continuing to investigate the matter, but Brown said the superintendent informed him Monday that the decision to remove Wilder from the team was not going to be reversed.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Pirozzolo said that the situation was "unfortunate," but he felt students must be handled equally.

"We follow the code of conduct and we treat all of our students the same way," Pirozzolo said.

In other news:

Cindy Lattimore, the Herman Avenue Elementary School principal, is retiring after more than 38 years of service with the Auburn school district. Her retirement was approved by the board.

Pirozzolo said after the meeting that Dennis Taylor, the district's director of instruction, will continue to serve as acting principal, as he has been for the last several months. Lattimore had been out of the school due to dealing with a family illness.

Pirozzolo said Lattimore turned in her letter of retirement about a week-and-a-half ago and that the district hasn't begun searching for her permanent replacement. He said her retirement is a "huge loss" to the district and that she will be hard to replace.

"She's had such a huge impact on so many children of Auburn, so many teachers, so many former administrators," Pirozzolo said.

Auburn man pleads guilty to promoting child pornography in Cayuga County

AUBURN — An Auburn man has admitted sharing a video depicting a naked girl. 

Christopher Harrington, of 57 Walnut St., pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child, a class D felony. 

Harrington was arrested in October and charged with possessing and promoting child pornography, both felonies. At the time, New York State Police said Harrington had downloaded a combination of images and videos of underage children, images Investigator Anthony Gower called "God-awful." 

Officers launched an investigation in March after Harrington was reported to police through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A search warrant revealed Harrington had possessed and distributed several images and videos at his home on Walnut Street. One showed a girl between 7 and 9 years old.

In court Tuesday, Harrington told Judge Mark Fandrich he shared a video of a young girl via Dropbox. He said he knew the video showed "a child exposing herself in a lewd manner." 

Harrington could face up to seven years in prison. However, Fandrich agreed to sentence him to six months in jail and 10 years probation. He will also have to register as a sex offender. 

Harrington remained out on $1,000 cash bail. His sentencing was scheduled for March 27. 

Also in court: 

• An Auburn man will spend the next six months in Cayuga County Jail for attempting to have sex with a preteen girl. 

In December, 27-year-old Matthew DeSimone pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree attempted rape, a class E felony. At the time, he admitted to messaging who he thought was a 12-year-old girl for sex; however, DeSimone said he later discovered it had been a trooper with New York State Police. 

In court Tuesday, DeSimone, of 51 Maple St., appeared before Judge Fandrich, but before he was sentenced, he had to address what the Cayuga County district attorney called "misleading statements." 

According to District Attorney Jon Budelmann, DeSimone seemed to shirk his responsibility in a probation report, in which he allegedly denied knowing that he was trying to message a 12-year-old girl for sex. But Budelmann said text messages showed DeSimone had asked the girl how old she was, to which she responded, "I'll be 13 in a few months." 

"These cases are disturbing," Budelmann said, noting that DeSimone had purchased condoms and driven over 25 miles to meet the girl at the Fingerlakes Mall in Aurelius. "The conduct here is frightening." 

Rome Canzano, DeSimone's defense attorney, agreed. 

Despite DeSimone's overall cooperation with the investigation, Canzano said he was also concerned by his client's statements to the probation department. 

Dressed in a suit and tie, DeSimone apologized to the court and to his family, and said he took full responsibility for his crime. Canzano added that DeSimone had undergone an evaluation with mental health and had begun engaging in treatment. 

In the end, Fandrich upheld the agreed-upon sentence of six months in jail and 10 years probation. He also ordered that DeSimone register as a sex offender upon his release from custody. 

• An Auburn teen has admitted robbing a cell phone store in Cayuga County. 

Jamar Lenton Jr., 18, of 20 Barber St., pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of third-degree robbery, a class D felony. During his plea, he told the court he helped his co-defendant, Courtney Donovan, rob Fast Trak Wireless on South Street in June. Donovan admitted her part in the crime last month. 

Police said the pair forcibly stole 10 cell phones valued at approximately $4,200 and damaged a $700 display case. In court Tuesday, Budelmann said most of the phones had been recovered. 

As a condition of his plea of guilty, Fandrich agreed to sentence Lenton to no worse than one to three years in prison with a shock camp order. He also said he would consider granting youthful offender status. 

Lenton remained out on $250 cash bail. His sentencing was scheduled for March 27. 

• A Moravia man was sentenced Tuesday to five years probation and time served for damaging a car with a tire iron and shovel. 

In November, Dusty Townsend, 27, of 1997 Townline Road, pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal mischief, a class E felony. While he could have faced up to four years in prison, Fandrich sentenced him to a term of shock probation. He also ordered Townsend to pay roughly $2,200 in restitution for the damage he caused to the vehicle in January 2017. 

• An Auburn man was sentenced to five years probation for violating an order of protection in August. 

Ronald Ostrander, 28, of 35 Cayuga St., pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal contempt in December. At the time, he admitted to having a physical altercation with a 28-year-old woman at Oak Creek Town Homes. The woman had an order of protection put in place against Ostrander earlier last year. 

As a condition of Ostrander's probation, Fandrich said he will have to successfully complete Auburn Behavioral Health Court. If he fails, he could face one to three years in prison. 

• An Albany woman was sentenced to prison Tuesday for smuggling synthetic drugs into Cayuga Correctional Facility. 

Ginger Wood, 28, pleaded guilty to first-degree promoting prison contraband in September. During her plea, she told the court she had attempted to bring 70 grams of synthetic marijuana into the Moravia prison in exchange for cash. 

On Tuesday, Budelmann said there were seven occasions in which Wood previously used a false name to smuggle drugs into facilities. He said it was a "cash-driven issue" and pointed out that Wood has had a "rough 28 years." 

Fandrich said he agreed that Wood had a difficult past. He ultimately sentenced her to one to three years in prison with a shock camp order. 

"It appears you have had a very sad life and I'm sorry for that," he said. "But you still need to be held responsible for your crime in Cayuga County." 

Christopher Harrington