Sunday, November 11, 2018

Western NY schools superintendent blocks employees, board members from communicating with me re: purchase of controversial anti-choking device, so I've asked the state education commissioner for guidance


A couple weeks ago I blogged, Olean, NY-area* school principal arranged purchase, installation, staff training of controversial anti-choking plunger device -- has he also received sales commissions?

In response to my subsequent reporting, a few days ago Tony Giannicchi, the district's superintendent of schools sent me a two-page letter that included:
Please be advised that District employees and Board members will not respond to any further communication from you, with the exception of requests for (public records)... 

That put me in a bind.

Here's why.

Via Dechokers at A-L expected to keep kids safe by staff reporter Kate Day Sager, Olean Times Herald, October 5, 2018:
(Tim) Hite, a professional firefighter, now promotes the Dechoker life-saving medical device which is used to suction objects from the airways of toddlers, children and adults.

Recently, Hite sold several sets of the Dechokers to the Allegany-Limestone Central School District, the first school district in the state to purchase the items.
Per a letter I received about three years ago, it's unclear if the Dechoker is approved by the New York State Department of Education.

From the same Times Herald article:
(Allegany-Limestone) Middle-High School Principal Cory Pecorella said the school district purchased two packages of the suction devices for each of the campuses.

...Pecorella said he learned of the device from Hite, whom he serves with in the Allegany Volunteer Fire Department.

“(Hite) contacted me and wanted to demonstrate the product for us,” Pecorella said. “We bought right into it.
Per my blog, it's unclear if Mr. Pecorella and Mr. Hite have a business relationship.

Finally, according to this recent interview conducted by reporter Amanda Gilbert (KWWL-TV, the Waterloo, IA NBC affiliate) with David Stilley MD, Medical Director at Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Emergency and Trauma Services, the Dechoker is of unproven benefit and safety.

(The interview was conducted for her May 31, 2018 report, Heimlich alternative? KWWL investigates new medical device offered to Iowa school.)

Those concerns seemed like reasonable grounds on which to request an investigation in order to determine if the Allegany-Limestone school's purchase and implementation of the devices was in compliance with applicable guidelines.

My problem? I don't know the appropriate office where to file that and per Superintendent Giannicchi's letter, if I ask him or another district employee or the school board how to proceed, they're prohibited from responding.

The only option I could think of was to request guidance from New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia -- see below. (Click here to download a copy.)

If/when I receive a reply, I'll report the results.

* My original headline began "Olean, NY school principal..." H/T to a knowledgeable reader who informed me "Allegany-Limestone Central Schools are not Olean schools. The two districts abut each other, but are separate," so I changed to "Olean, NY-area."