Discipline – The “Art” of Education

June 8, 2017

I am compelled to defend the character of the Superintendent of my hometown. I’d like to revisit accusations brought upon by the high school principal. In an article written in the Herald from June 6th, quotes from random segments of what might have been private conversation between the superintendent and a trusted colleague were written. Without naming a source or when and where these comments took place is nothing more than a disservice to the community who are looking for facts.

The principal left the district in August, 2016. I would imagine he rendered his resignation a few months prior. On his way out he said nothing about any of this? Seven months later a letter surfaces among the lawyers and not until the May, 2017 board meeting does the principal speak up. If the superintendent’s conduct is so unbecoming and risking our children’s safety, why has it taken a year for all of this information to surface? If he truly cared about the district, his staff and the student’s safety, wouldn’t he have taken action sooner and hung around a bit to make a difference? The super had only been in office about a year and the HS principal was out the door.

With regard to the student’s drug & alcohol testing, the law reads that the principal of the school should contact the parent and superintendent. If the principal obeyed the law, then the parent should have been notified in addition to notifying the super. Nowhere in the law did I read the principal had to get permission to contact the parent by his superior or that the parent couldn’t be called first. At any time, any of the personnel involved could have placed a phone call to CPP (formerly DYFS). With the gravity of a situation, of a child who had been identified as possibly disturbed and the potential for casualties, the fact that several adults didn’t follow through because the super told them not to, says more about their lack of courage. If, God Forbid, something destructive had happened, those people would be equally held accountable and at fault for not taking action. Really, picture it – the aftermath of a horrible school tragedy. They are being interviewed and say, “Well, the super wouldn’t let me follow through with a psych eval…”. Come on.

It is my understanding that the previous super abruptly resigned over “bullying” issues within the Special Services department. Maybe the current super’s comments about punching people were in response to a specific situation or comment made by the former superintendent. I do agree it was inappropriate, however – who did he say it to? The person who made his comments public, were they eavesdropping? Are you reaching for more ‘dirt’ to make this a more dramatic happening? I can’t help but wonder why, the person or people who heard him talk about punching people didn’t step up right then and there to confront him. Simply express, “I’m not comfortable with that…” or “I find that type of talk offensive”. Me, I would have looked at him and said, “No violence Art – that’s not even funny” or “now, use your words”. Is the super so intimidating? Can no one stick up for themselves? If he is having a tirade with vulgarity – can no one interject and say, “Excuse me, your language is uncalled for.” They wait a year later to tattle to the lawyers and the Board. Again, I say – Come on!

An aging administration…let me ask this – How are the rounds of retirement packages initiated? Every so often school districts and corporations offer buy-outs. Do the personnel involved communicate telepathically that it’s time to offer the aging staff their retirement packages? Did he say this to an employee in HR? What verbiage is proper? Given that he is also among the chronologically aging employees, maybe he was referring to those who evade ever changing technology? For those of us who are extremely technically savvy – many have no idea the depth and functionality of the internet today and the elders don’t want to know. It is not ageism to want to see a generation leave the workforce so that another can enter. It’s the cycle of life for crying out loud.

With regard to his comment about not wanting to pay attorney’s fees…are you aware of the lengthy process in Long Hill when he resigned? It looks like it took three years of legal action over redacting and un-redacting two paragraphs in his resignation letter to the Long Hill school district along with invoices to attorneys. (Howard Kupferman Complainant v. Long Hill Township Board of Education (Morris) Custodian of Record). So maybe he is being proactive with limiting litigation in our district. Or maybe the legal system is so draining, not only draining financial resources but the court system can suck the life right out of anybody. Maybe he was attempting to de-centralize our schools. Maybe he was hoping that the principal could lead and manage the high school all by himself and not have to rely so much on the administration. It just sounds like the principal needed to have his hand held, a lot.

I cannot address the harassing and male preferential treatment because very little, if any supporting information has been given. I will say this though, he is of the generation of men who frankly, don’t know any better. Maybe that is what he was referring to when he said he has work to do. We’ve become a politically correct nation with heightened sensitivity. He has been around for 42 years. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

With regard to his salary – of the 45 retired superintendents in New Jersey he is in the bottom 5. He has forfeited his $80,000+ pension to obtain a formal position in our district. He is required to contribute to the fund now that he is no longer interim. Comparatively, among the other retirees and their interim positions, many are receiving $500,000+. Understand this, to be our superintendent, he has forfeited over $400,000 for the next five years. He could be bouncing around district to district as an ‘interim’ superintendent making that much in one year but he isn’t. He wants to be here, in Vernon, for us and our children.

I was thrilled when I heard he was back in our district. I am incredibly disheartened at this attack of his character and ethic. I fear we are teaching the students to undermine the administration. He was around long before children were being empowered with very little knowledge, long before no child gets left behind and long before Vernon had the need to take any security measures.

When I was in 10th grade at VTHS, we had a walk-out because some teachers were being laid off due to budget cuts. As soon as we stepped outside, we were told, over the loudspeaker in no uncertain terms that if we did not return to our classes we would be suspended for 10 days. Today, the kids get to hang out on the football field all day. Has anyone advised our children that if the current vice principal had been given the position of principal, it would no longer be in her job description to tend to the students as much? And please, give me a break about a “hostile” work environment. If you want to talk about a truly hostile work environment, speak to a Veteran. I once worked at the Special Services office many years ago. The Child Study Team joined forces, united to send a message to the Board about the conditions in our office…we sometimes were without hand soap in our bathroom…seriously.

I went to see Eric Clapton recently. As I stared down at the stage watching him play his guitar I was in awe. I just thought to myself, my God, all that history sitting there in that one person – I’m in the same room with a man who knew Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaugh – George Harrison, I mean the list goes on and on. Now, I am not comparing the administration to Eric Clapton. My point is, they too have a lot of history; Mr. Iannacone, Mr. Chintala, Maureen McCall, Dr. Podorf, Mr. Paskey…that list, too, goes on and on.

Now, please, get off their backs and let them do their jobs. They too, will be aging out soon.

More about Leigh

1 Comment
    1. Boxing begins with restraint.
      Yoga begins with this body, your body – this one time
      Hopefully with the love of our other ones.

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