When does one’s alleged perception of being uncomfortable result in the destruction of a man’s reputation, his life’s work, and his career?
It does in my little town of Manhasset, where our superintendent of schools, Dr. Vincent Butera, has been on leave since May 2021 when a mob mentality and media frenzy erupted after a report was leaked that he had violated the district’s sexual harassment policy. A policy so wide that anyone who unintentionally makes someone feel uncomfortable is in violation – even if that person never raises an issue until years later.
This should make anyone who has ever hugged anyone – even out of compassion – quiver with fear. Sadly, many have suggested that there is more to this ongoing saga.
This much was alluded to when the deputy superintendent, Rosemary Johnson, confronted the Board of Education on Aug. 3 demanding Dr. Butera’s reinstatement with the chilling forewarning “to those bad actors and you know who you are – may God help you.”
Former Teachers’ Union Vice President Chris Miller asked the board directly if the allegations were part of a coordinated effort to undermine Dr. Butera and the district and, if so, whether these coordinated efforts by “bad actors” were deemed to be plausible and informed the board’s decision in the Fall 2020 to retain Dr. Butera as superintendent.
Clearly, there is more to this story – but we will not get answers from this Board of Education. The last that they have said on this matter was on May 6, 2021, when VP Christine Monterosso said they made the right decision in the Fall 2020 [to retain Dr. Butera].
We are all left to wonder who exactly are these bad actors? When making a subjective determination of whether or not someone felt uncomfortable, credibility is critical, and part of credibility is motive. What was their motive? What if this proves to be a fabricated or induced claim based on someone else’s personal vendetta?
Many of us are aware that this whole saga began when the disbarred spouse (law.com, caselaw.findlaw.com) of a disgruntled longtime and former employee made allegations, which he posted on Twitter with an all call for people to come forward. Three days later came the complaint alleging benign behavior for which every administrator in the country has engaged.
Somehow observing a classroom has been contorted to suggest stalking. Yet even the complainant in her letter does not suggest a single phone call, text message, email, or any other personal communication. Maybe we should terminate Dr. Butera for being the world’s worst stalker. Something smells really rotten!
We expect our elected leaders to put the interests of the district above their own. This Board of Education seemingly prioritizes its own legacy over the best interest of the students. In the meantime, the district and children continue to suffer in the absence of a full-focused leadership team. We continue to get nothing from our Board of Education. No answers. No action.
While the Board of Education has shown itself prone to caving to a mob that lacks all the facts, this district has suffered a massive cyber-attack, exposing who-knows-how much of our children’s personal information. Just as Dr. Butera was able to guide the district through the many challenges of a global pandemic while much of the country’s educational infrastructure sat paralyzed, wouldn’t it be nice if the superintendent we are paying was welcomed back to the district to deal with this crisis, too?
As one parent recently posted, “the SB must make a decision now. If there is no legal basis for firing Butera, he should be allowed to return to work. If they let him go, he will sue us for breach of contract and damages to his reputation and he will be right to do so. The weak SB put us in this position.”
Perhaps that was what was meant by the speaker at the Sept. 21 board meeting who said, “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” Indeed, as the maxim signifies, justice must be realized regardless of consequences.