BY ROSE WELDON AND SAMUELE PETRUCCELLI
Manhasset school principal Vincent Butera takes leave after allegations that he sexually harassed a teacher, announced the Board of Education.
“The past two weeks have been an incredibly difficult time for the Manhasset school community,” the board said in an emailed statement to the community last Thursday, signed by its five members. “Starting today, Dr. Vincent Butera will be on leave so that, as we close the school year, the district can only focus on supporting our students, faculty and staff.”
The news came after an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made last fall by an anonymous former teacher at Shelter Rock Elementary School, citing frequent class visits and two unwelcome hugs from the principal.
Investigation by an independent lawyer revealed that since Butera’s actions were seen as unwelcome by the teacher, they were against district policy. Butera told Manhasset Education council meeting on May 6, he was “disheartened” that the complainant interpreted his actions as embarrassing.
“Despite my intention, the independent lawyer found that my attention was seen by the complainant as unwelcome, and therefore a violation of district policy,” Butera said at the meeting. “My actions and behavior have always been meant to reflect the values and high standards that so many of us have, for conveying care and concerns. And the thought that even one person saw it differently brings me deep regret and sadness, and for that I have thought deeply.
The exact length of the leave, as well as Butera’s return to his post in the fall, were not disclosed. Whether the leave was voluntary or district-mandated and whether it was paid leave was also not disclosed.
A perceived lack of action and transparency on the part of the school board over the case drew criticism from parents and students, with more than 200 seniors leaving class last Friday to protest that Butera still had a job.
Stacy Kelly, whose petition calling for Butera’s dismissal has more than 800 signatures, said in a telephone interview that the Education Council needs to take further action, calling the leave a “band-aid” on a much larger injury. important.
“The board hasn’t actually acted, but they want us to feel like they’ve acted,” Kelly said.
Kelly added that the investigation and its consequences were “clearly not on top of [the board’s] listing.”
“Their silence on this issue speaks volumes about what they think the district’s priorities should be,” Kelly said. “Their silence speaks volumes about their belief that Manhasset should be a zero tolerance district for sexual harassment. “
She also said the school board should be “held accountable” for “[getting] it’s wrong.”
“They blew it up,” Kelly said. “Our only way to hold them accountable is to exclude them. “
Blank Slate Media has contacted the school board for comment regarding Kelly’s statements.
Earlier, Pat Aitken, the chairman of the school board, said the board determined the matter should be treated as confidential. “It’s not the same as a lack of transparency,” she said.
The board of directors also announced in the statement that Rosemary Johnson, assistant superintendent of business and operations, will serve as acting superintendent.