A Massachusetts school committee voted this week to offer the superintendent job to a different candidate after a man first proposed the position apparently caused offense by addressing the chairperson and her assistant, both females, as “ladies” in an email negotiating salary.
In a 5-2 vote behind closed doors Monday, the Easthampton School Committee elected not to re-enter negotiations with Dr. Vito Perrone, the current West Springfield interim superintendent of schools, the Boston Herald and Boston.com both reported. The committee instead offered the superintendent job to Erica Faginski-Stark, a current director of curriculum and instruction in Ludlow, and the woman accepted the new gig pending negotiations.
The vote came after a public portion of the meeting Monday during which some residents reportedly said they were “disgusted” by the committee and defended first-pick Perrone.
Perrone previously told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that he was offered the position as the head of Easthampton Schools on March 23 but later notified that the job offer had been withdrawn over his choice of salutation in an email to negotiate his salary with School Committee Chair Cynthia Kwiecinski and executive assistant Suzanne Colby, both female.
Massachusetts school superintendent candidate Vito Perrone (LinkedIn: Vito Perrone)
Kwiecinski reportedly interpreted his “ladies” greeting as a “microaggression,” according to the newspaper. Kwiecinski later told the Gazette that most of her fellow committee members believed it was “extremely unprofessional” and “inappropriate” of Perrone to address the chairperson “with a familiarity that he had not earned.” Kwiecinski said the committee had “too many concerns before we had even begun negotiating the rest of the contract and alarm bells were going off” regarding Perrone, who had an “unreasonable” salary and paid time off requests.
“The teachers, students, and parents who have experienced working with him [Perrone] were ringing bells of glee; I didn’t hear any alarms,” committee member Laurie Garcia said Monday, rejecting Kwiecinski’s description of events. Boston.com reported that Garcia also decried how Perrone was “immediately canceled” and described the incident as a “horrific ordeal.”
“I in no way thought it was a microaggression,” Garcia added of the “ladies” remark.
The Easthampton School Committee rescinded an offer to Dr. Vito Perrone to become superintendent after he used the email salutation “ladies.” (Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
“Easthampton has a chance to show how we do not jeopardize the name and career of a person for simply uttering a word that some may deem offensive,” math teacher Sofia Checa said Monday, according to the Herald.
“It is not so black and white whether it’s inappropriate,” resident Andrew Connelly reportedly added. “While I recognize the party’s reason for taking offense, I wish there would have been a chance for Dr. Perrone to make amends.”
A Massachusetts school committee voted not to continue negotiations with superintendent candidate Dr. Vito Perrone. (iStock)
Marissa Carrere, an educator and former Easthampton School Committee member, argued that the committee acted against procedure in taking the vote behind closed doors Monday.
“The vacuum of information that has been created by the committee’s actions has been the biggest driver of this controversy, and that’s precisely why elected representatives are required to take major votes in public, with a posted agenda,” said Carrere, according to Boston.com.
Some speakers debated that snubbing Perrone meant settling for the “second-best candidate.”
Other residents criticized Perrone as “self-serving” for speaking to the media and threatening to sue the district after his job offer was rescinded.