Super Sorry, Dr. Butera: An Apology

Former Manhasset Education President Ed Vasta speaks in defense of Vincent Butera during a Manhasset Board of Education meeting last summer. (Screen Capture)

In May 2021, I was disheartened to have witnessed the media frenzy that resulted when a story was published in the Manhasset Press with the headline “Super Problem,” citing the violation of a Manhasset School District policy. What resulted were conclusions being drawn and many quickly condemning a human being without an understanding of the facts.

It was evident that the Board of Education understood there was more here, which is why they made the decision from the onset that discipline was not warranted. In May 2021, board members publicly stated that their decision was “the right one,” and in February 2022, the board acknowledged that “regrettably, some of the reaction was based on speculation rather than fact, and certain statements made by some individuals in the public domain regarding Dr. Butera’s reputation and character were uninformed.”

With those words the Manhasset Board of Education seemingly closed the door on a sad chapter of Manhasset history. Until of course it was made public in May 2022 that the state had commenced an investigation spurred by an anonymous complaint with the Office of State Review. Apparently, anyone can file a complaint against someone with an educational license and create the kind of hurtful speculation that resulted here. Speculation that further entrenches us in our respective camps rather than promotes the kind of respectful and productive dialogue that is so sorely needed in our society.

I watched this ordeal from the earliest days and was saddened in so many ways, yet I was touched to see so many people speak up on behalf of Dr. Butera, including teachers’ union President Ed Vasta, teachers’ union Vice President Chris Miller, and Deputy Superintendent Rosemary Johnson, who in speaking about Dr. Butera stated, “I know Dr. Butera to be a humble, kind, caring and thoughtful human being and superintendent,” Johnson said. “He is honest, and he is self-aware. He is an extraordinary leader, the best I have ever worked with in my plus-40-year career.”

It speaks to the man I know. In nearly 40 years as an educator, I have never seen the president and vice president of a teachers’ union stand up publicly for a superintendent.

Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations Rosemary Johnson spoke out forcefully in defense of Vincent Butera at a Board of Education meeting. She is shown at the Manhasset graduation in June, her last as an administrator as she retired after the school year. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Those sentiments were not isolated as just recently, former 16-year board trustee Carlo Prinzo, upon hearing the news that the Office of State Review was closing the matter without incident, thus clearing Dr. Butera stated, “Wonderful news. This horrible attack on Dr. Butera comes to a close, orchestrated by a few unhappy individuals to achieve their own goals. Meanwhile, the reputation of a fine person/superintendent is attacked.”

While I am happy with the outcome, I remain a bit sad but for the grace of God go any of us. Perhaps it does not have to continue to be sad. Let us all resolve to not jump to conclusions, throw stones, or sign petitions without first understanding exactly what happened. Perhaps that will keep this from ever happening again,

And to Dr. Butera and his family: I am so very sorry… or as the headline should read “Super Sorry.”


Valerie Mazzone

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