Reaches separation agreement with district
The Manhasset Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Monday, February 14 at 7 p.m. in the District Office’s Community Room to vote on a separation agreement with Dr. Vincent Butera, the superintendent of schools.
The board released the following statement:
The Manhasset School District announces that the district and Dr. Vincent Butera have mutually agreed to an amicable separation. Under the terms of the separation agreement, Dr. Butera will remain on leave and resign as superintendent effective July 11, 2022. He will receive his full pay and contractual benefits through that date and will vest for retiree health insurance benefits. In the following year of his existing contract which ends June 30, 2023, he will continue to receive only his salary, without any benefits, subject to mitigation in the event he obtains other employment.
Dr. Butera dedicated four years of service to the district since joining Manhasset in July 2017. Upon arriving, Dr. Butera quickly recognized the social and emotional challenges in the educational community. The vision he created regarding the care for student and faculty well-being focused on providing greater support for individuals and their families. This assessment and related work in this area positioned the district at the forefront of the discussions of mental health in the K-12 setting. Dr. Butera also navigated the district through the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2020-21 school year by listening to and working with multiple stakeholders with a wide range of viewpoints.
As the community is aware, a May 2021 article in the local press referenced allegations regarding a Manhasset School district personnel matter and a Fall 2020 confidential investigation of that matter. The board publicly confirmed at that time that an investigation had been conducted by independent counsel, that the board had taken appropriate steps consistent with the independent counsel’s investigation and recommendations, and district policy and procedures. Accordingly, Dr. Butera remained actively employed as superintendent.
Consistent with how all district personnel matters are handled, including protecting the privacy of all individuals involved, the matter remained confidential. The inability of the board to comment on these confidential matters and the notoriety created by the article resulted in a very heated reaction in the school community. Regrettably, some of that 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. Dr. Butera took a voluntary leave in May 2021 with the expectation that he would return, and the hope that his absence would quell the crisis and restore a semblance of normalcy, so that the sole focus would be on supporting students, faculty and staff as the district closed out the school year.
With the passage of time, both Dr. Butera and the district have mutually agreed that it is now best to put this chapter behind us. This understandably has been a difficult time for the Manhasset school community, Dr. Butera, and everyone involved in this matter.
We remain hopeful this resolution will enable all to move forward.
WHEREAS, Dr. Vincent Butera (“Dr. Butera”) was appointed March 11, 2017 by the Board of Education of the Manhasset Union Free School District (“Board”) as Superintendent of Schools of the Manhasset Union Free School District (“District”), and has served continuously as Superintendent from July 10, 2017 to the present date (Dr. Butera, Board and the District, together the “parties”); and
WHEREAS, on March 11, 2017, the parties entered into an employment agreement which set forth the terms of Dr. Butera’s employment as Superintendent, Which employment agreement was amended by written documents dated July 26, 2018 and August 1, 2019 (“Employment Agreement”); and
WHEREAS, Dr. Butera’s Employment Agreement will terminate June 30, 2023; and WHEREAS, the parties have concluded that it is in their mutual best interests to end the employer-employee relationship; and
WHEREAS, the parties have reached agreement as to the terms by which the parties will end their relationship; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Butera and the Board have reviewed all of the terms and conditions of this Separation Agreement, have had the opportunity to review this Separation Agreement with counsel, and now freely consent to enter into this Separation Agreement, such consent not having been induced by fraud, duress, or any other influence; and
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY STIPULATED AND AGREED BY AND BETWEEN THE PARTIES AS FOLLOWS:
1. Dr. Butera hereby tenders his irrevocable resignation as Superintendent of Schools of the Manhasset Union Free School District, which shall be effective July 11, 2022.
Dr. Butera’s irrevocable letter of resignation is annexed and made a part of this Separation Agreement as Attachment A.
2. Upon execution of this Separation Agreement and its approval by the Board, Dr. Butera shall be released from any obligation to perform any duties or responsibilities as Superintendent of the Manhasset Union Free School District, and shall not exercise same.
3. The District will continue to pay the remainder of Dr. Butera’s annual base salary of $286,844 through and including June 30, 2022, and will provide his contractual benefits through June 30, 2022, namely: a non-elective employer contribution to Dr. Butera’s IRC 403(b) account equal to three percent of his annual salary ($8,605.32), which shall be payable on or about May 15, 2022; 80% of health and dental insurance premiums (family coverage) though June 30, 2022; and transportation expenses of $500 per month through June 30, 2022. The District will provide Dr. Butera with information concerning his COBRA rights within thirty days of the effective date of his resignation.
4. During the period July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023, which is the final year of Dr. Butera’s Employment Agreement, the District will no longer provide any contractual benefits contained in his current employment agreement, but will make bi-weekly payments to Dr. Butera based on the current annual base salary of $286,844, provided, however, that said amount shall be subject to mitigation, such that if Dr. Butera obtains paid employment (including, but not limited to consulting work) at any time during the period July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023, the District shall only be obligated to pay the difference between $286,844, and the salary/compensation of his new position. Dr. Butera agrees to make good faith efforts to obtain full-time employment at a marketable rate of pay for all positions sought. Notwithstanding the foregoing, to the extent that during the period July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023, Dr. Butera continues to teach education-related courses at the college or graduate level, up to a total of $17,850 of his earnings from said teaching duties shall not be subject to the mitigation provisions above.
5. Within thirty (30) days of his hire in new employment as referenced in paragraph 4 above, Dr. Butera shall provide the Board with a copy of that portion of his employment agreement/consultant agreement or such other documentation, sufficient to demonstrate his position, title and compensation (“Compensation Documentation”). Said Compensation Documentation shall be the sole documentation required from Dr. Butera with respect to mitigation. Thereafter, the District’s bi-weekly payments to Dr. Butera will be adjusted to reflect the reduction due to mitigation.
6. The District will pay Dr. Butera for 27 unused vacation days from the 2020-21 school year at Dr. Butera’s 2020-21 per diem rate of $1,171.75, for a total of $31,637.25, as well as $5,096.15 which represents an underpayment of five days’ pay of his 2017-18 school year salary resulting from a payroll error that occurred in that year. Such payments shall be made within 30 days of the Board’s approval of this Separation Agreement.
7. The District agrees to modify the vesting period to five years for eligibility for the New York State Health Insurance Plan (“NYSHIP”) benefits in retirement. Upon Board approval of this Separation Agreement, the Board will issue written confirmation of such change via a letter to Dr. Butera on Board of Education letterhead. Dr. Butera shall be solely responsible for compliance with all rules and regulations regarding all aspects of health insurance coverage, including, but not limited to, his eligibility to receive benefits as a vestee or retiree. The Board assumes no responsibility whatsoever concerning health coverage except as noted in paragraph 3 above and paragraph 8 below.
8. If at the time of hls retirement, Dr. Butera: (a) has maintained his eligibility for NYSHIP health insurance coverage in retirement; (b) has not attained NYSHIP vested status with another employer; and (c) the District remains the responsible party for NYSHIP retiree health insurance benefits, the District shall contribute the same percentage of the premium cost toward Dr. Butera’s health insurance coverage (family or individual at Dr. Butera’s option) (”District Contribution”) as the District shall then be obligated for such health coverage for the District’s then-Superintendent of Schools, provided, however, that if Dr. Butera retires on or before July 15, 2027, the District contribution shall be equal to the percentage the District paid while Dr. Butera was employed as Superintendent.
9. Upon execution of this Separation Agreement by Dr. Butera and its approval by the Board, the Board will issue on Board of Education letterhead, signed by the Board President, the jointly agreed upon statement which is annexed in Draft form as Attachment B.
10. Other than as set forth in paragraph 18 below, this Separation Agreement shall be irrevocable and not subject to recall or reconsideration pending its approval and acceptance by the Board by a duly adopted resolution made at a public meeting of the Board, whereupon all of its terms shall become effective immediately. In the event that the Board declines to approve same, each and every term of this Separation Agreement shall be null and void and the parties reinstated to the positions they held immediately prior to the execution of this Separation Agreement, with no portion of this Separation Agreement taking effect.
11. In consideration of the obligations and stipulations contained herein, Dr. Butera, his heirs, executors, administrators, nominees, successors and assigns hereby release and discharge the Manhasset Union Free School District, the Board of Education of the Manhasset Union Free School District, the current and former members of the Board of Education of the Manhasset Union Free School District and their attorneys, both in their individual and official capacities; their employees, former employees*,’ agents, consultants, volunteers, heirs, executors, administrators, successors, and assigns, in their individual and official capacities, whether persons, firms or corporations, whether named herein or not, and each of them, from any and all actions, causes of actions, claims, charges, liability, responsibility, damages, costs, expenses, employment benefits, compensation for world-related injuries or alleged work-related injuries, grievances, claims for compensatory, general, punitive, exemplary damages, back pay, front pay, lost health insurance, pension, deferred compensation benefits, accrued leave, reinstatement, and legal fees, disbursements, costs, and compensation whatsover, including, but not limited to, actions sounding in personal injury, emotional distress, wrongful or unlawful termination, breach of contract or contractual obligations, violations of any state and/or municipal fair employment statutes or laws, of violations of any other state or federal law, rule, regulation, or ordinance pertaining to discrimination of any kind, or employment, wages, hours or any other terms and conditions of employment, and termination of employment, which Dr. Butera ever had, now has, or hereafter can, shall, or may have for, upon, or by reason of any matter, cause or thing whatsoever, resulting from Dr. Butera’s employment in the Manhasset Union Free School District, from the beginning of the world to the day of Dr. Butera’s execution of this Separation Agreement, including, but not limited to, claims arising under: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq., and its implementing regulations; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., and its implementing regulations; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. §6101 et seq., and its implementing regulations; the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act 29 U.S.C. §626, and its implementing regulations; the Federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1983, and its implementing regulations; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101, et seq., and its implementing regu1ations; and the New York State Human Rights Law, Executive Law §296.
12. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, Dr. Butera expressly reserves his right to seek indemnification and defense pursuant to any applicable provision of law, Board policy, Board resolution, or his employment agreement including, but not limited to, Education Law Sections 3023, 3028, or 3811 and/or Section 18 of the Public Officers Law. The Board shall not unreasonably deny any such request for indemnification and defense by Dr. Butera. The Board hereby releases and discharges Dr. Butera in both his official and individual capacity from liabilities, legal claims, actions, causes of action, suits, debts, damages, and judgments, arising from Dr. Butera’s lawful acts and omissions within the scope of his duties as Superintendent, provided that the Board shall not release and/or discharge Dr. Butera in either his official or individual capacity from liabilities, legal claims, actions, causes of action, suits, debts, damages, and judgments, arising from: (1) Dr. Butera’s act or omission constituting a violation of State, federal or local law; (2) any act or omission constituting a violation of the District’s policy against sexual harassment or harassment under the Dignity for All Students Act; and/or (3) any third party claim that is not covered under the defense and/or indemnification provisions of Education Law Sections 3023, 3028, or 3811 and/or Section 18 of the Public Officers law.
13. Dr. Butera represents to the District, as a material inducement to it to enter into thls Separation Agreement, that there are no pending matters, claims, charges, complaints or actions against or with respect to any of the releases, as identified above, filed or submitted by Dr. Butera, or on behalf of Dr. Butera, with any federal, state or local court, department, administrator or other agency. If any such entity assumes jurisdiction over any such matters, claims, charges, complaints or actions, Dr. Butera shall immediately take all reasonable action to cause said entity to terminate such proceeding without liability to any release, as identified above.
14. The Board and the District agree not to release the investigative report prepared by independent counsel concerning Dr. Butera dated November 6, 2020 unless required to do so by court order or by a lawfully issued subpoena. If a court order or lawful subpoena requires release, the Board and the District shall thereafter be relieved of any further obligation pursuant to this paragraph.
15. Nothing contained herein shall preclude either party from taking appropriate legal action to enforce the terms of this Separation Agreement.
16. Dr. Butera acknowledges that he has entered into this Separation Agreement freely, knowingly and openly, without coercion or duress, and that in accepting its terms he voluntarily waives any statutory, contractual or constitutional rights he has, had, or may have had in this matter pursuant to his employment agreement with the Board of Education of the Manhasset Union Free School District, or §§3012, 3020 and 3020-a of the Education Law.
17. Dr. Butera affirms that he has had access to and has had an opportunity to consult with counsel throughout these proceedings concerning the ramifications of this Separation Agreement.
18. By executing this Separation Agreement, Dr. Butera acknowledges that in accordance with the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (29 U.S.C. section 626): (i) he enters into this Separation Agreement voluntarily and with full understanding and knowledge of its consequences; (ii) he has been advised to consult with an attorney before executing this Separation Agreement and has had an opportunity to consult with an attorney of his own choosing in connection herewith; (ill) he has been advised that he has seven (7) days following his execution to revoke it (the “Revocation Period”).
19. Pursuant to 29 CFR 1625.22(e)(6), Dr. Butera knowingly and voluntarily waives the twenty-one (21) day pre-execution consideration period set forth in the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (29 U.S.C. 626(f)(1)(F)(i)).
20. This written Separation Agreement contains all of the terms and conditions agreed upon by the parties, and no other agreement, oral or otherwise, regarding Dr. Butera’s employment or resignation shall be deemed to exist or to bind any of the parties, or to vary any of the terms contained herein.
21. Dr. Butera has executed this Separation Agreement, and the attached letter of resignation, of his own free will, without duress or coercion of any kind.
22. The parties acknowledge that they have read and considered the terms of this Separation Agreement and sign it fully and knowing ly after due consideration.
23. In the event that any one or more terms of this Separation Agreement are found by a Court, Arbitrator or other body with competent jurisdiction over the parties to be unenforceable, void or in violation of law, the remaining terms shall remain in full force and effect.
24. This Separation Agreement may only be modified in writing if approved by Dr. Butera and the Board of Education.
25. This Separation Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of New York.
*–In light of pending litigation involving Dr. Jean Kendall, the District’s former Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, the term “former employees” in this paragraph shall not include Dr. Kendall.
Letter of Resignation
Dear Members of the Board;
I hereby tender my irrevocable letter of resignation as Superintendent of Schools, effective July 11, 2022.
Very truly yours, Vincent Butera, Ed.D.