The Manhasset Board of Education has announced that Superintendent of Schools Dr. Vincent Butera will go on leave, effective Thursday, May 13. Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations Rosemary Johnson has been appointed Acting Superintendent by the board of education.
The action to place Butera on administrative leave stems from a Manhasset Press article published last week that revealed allegations of sexual harassment against Butera from a former Shelter Rock Elementary School teacher. The former teacher wrote to the Manhasset Board of Education in September 2020 about the sexual harassment allegations and the board hired independent counsel on Sept. 23 to do an investigation. On Nov. 30, 2020, Independent Counsel Elizabeth Ledkovsky wrote to the former teacher that Butera violated the district’s sexual harassment policy.
“The past two weeks have been an incredibly difficult time for the Manhasset school community,” the Manhasset Board of Education said in a district-wide email. “Effective today, Dr. Vincent Butera will be on a leave of absence so, that as we close out the school year, the district’s sole focus will be on supporting our students, faculty and staff.”
Through a spokesperson for the district, the board said it would not comment any further. New York State Council of Superintendents General Counsel Jacinda Conboy could not be reached for comment.
Administrators throughout the school district were summoned to the community room for a “confidential meeting” at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 13. They were told at the meeting that Butera is on leave until at least graduation. The district-wide email announcing the leave of absence was sent at 3:30 p.m. the same day.
Butera was previously seen earlier in the day during a minute and 12-second board of education meeting at 9 a.m. held over Zoom and broadcasted on Youtube. Board of Education President Patricia Aitken and trustee Christine Monterosso are seen in Butera’s office doing the pledge of allegiance and then voting on the appointment of new District Treasurer Angelo Pace.
The personnel schedule of May 13, stating the appointment of Pace, does not show Butera’s leave of absence. Personnel schedules from the fall of 2020, during the time the independent counsel’s investigation concluded, also do not have Butera’s name on them.
The school board did not disclose the investigation or its findings to the public until the Manhasset Press published its article about the two letters. Butera and the board of education acknowledged the allegations and investigation’s conclusion at a previously scheduled school board meeting on Thursday night, May 6. The board of education stood by Butera as pressure mounted from students, parents and teachers to remove the superintendent they hired in 2017.
On Friday, May 7, teachers across the district wore all-black in protest. A parent, Stacey Kelly, started an online petition, “Dr. Butera must be terminated,” that has received more than 815 signatures. High school students, mostly seniors, walked out of the secondary school building to an adjacent field during fifth period in protest of Butera remaining employed by the district. Students chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Butera has got to go,” during the walkout protest.
Later that night, Butera sent out a district-wide email saying, “I was extremely disheartened to learn that my actions were construed by even one person as anything other than completely professional, and this leaves me with profound regret and sadness…Clearly, the findings did not warrant termination or forced resignation, as I am certain if that were the case, the board would have not hesitated to take such action immediately.”
On Monday, May 10, teachers in the Manhasset Secondary School wore all-black again and stood on the front lawn near the student drop-off before school began. Secondary school teachers did this same protest for the next three days, although not always wearing all-black.
Butera currently has two years remaining on his contract with the Manhasset School District. The board previously picked up a one-year extension option in July 2018, making the expiration date June 30, 2022. In August 2019, the board extended Butera another year and implemented pay raises. Butera is set to make $286,844 during the 2021-22 school year, up from $281,220 this year. His 2022-23 salary has yet to be determined by the board of education, but cannot fall below $286,844. As part of the second extension, he also received a monthly $500 travel stipend.
On Tuesday, May 18, the school district will have a budget vote on the $102 million budget proposal by the board of education. There will also be a vote for two seats on the board of education. Incumbent trustee Carlo Prinzo will be running for reelection, while trustee Ann Marie Curd has chosen not to run. Frank Bua, Jill Pullano and Erin Royce are the other candidates running for the board of education.