A Silk City Academy teacher has been suspended without pay until 2015 after a state arbitrator last month found the teacher at fault in six of the eight charges of conduct unbecoming of a teacher and one charge of incapacity brought against the teacher by the city’s school district.
The district filed eight tenure charges against Richard Vincenti encapsulating 24 counts of conduct unbecoming of a teaching staff and five counts of incapacity, according to legal ruling issued by arbitrator Howard Edelman.
A vignette of Vincenti’s conduct gleamed from the legal briefs submitted by the district’s lawyer paints a grim picture of the teacher’s conduct.
During the 2012-13 school year, Vincenti brought bags of groceries into the Ellison Street school, storing them inside a fridge in another teacher’s classroom. Vincenti then repeatedly retrieved food from the refrigerator, each time interrupting the class that was in session in the classroom, reads briefs filed by the district’s lawyers.
Another charge states, Vincenti walked out of the school leaving his students unsupervised. “Beginning in or around November 2012,” reads the legal document, Vincenti “frequently left the SCA [Silk City Academy] building during the school day, leaving students unsupervised.”
During weekly staff meetings, Vincenti allegedly “criticized, ridiculed, berated and bullied teaching staff,” according to the district’s complaint.
“During the 2013-2014 school year, during a staff meeting,” reads the complaint, “Vincenti made disparaging remarks towards a teaching staff member and, when the teaching staff member responded that she knew he was talking about her, Vincenti became verbally aggressive with the teaching staff member.”
Vincenti disapproved of teachers, who took on added responsibilities at the school that went beyond their collective bargaining obligations. Vincenti accosted teachers in the school’s hallway and at one point went inside a classroom, pulled out three students from a class that was in session, closed the door, and commenced a screaming session at the instructor.
In another alleged charge, Vincenti engaged in a dispute with a school secretary over the mechanism of the district’s sub-finder system, an online portal used by the district to connect substitutes to vacant positions in schools.
Joann Carnemolla, the secretary, told Vincenti his understanding of the system was incorrect. Vincenti left the building to find support for his interpretation of the system. He returned and “angrily” attempted to pass his point across to Carnemolla and the school’s principal.
When left to obtain support for his interpretation of the system, Vincenti received a parking ticket for parking in a restricted space. Vincenti blamed Carnemolla for the $50 parking ticket and spread the story using photograph of the ticket to staffers at the school.
Carnemolla directed Vincenti quit talking about the parking ticket at which point, an allegedly angry Vincenti remarked: “You are the Titanic an [sic] I am your iceberg.” Lawyers of the teacher argued that Carnemolla was no “shrinking violet” and “she gave as good as she got.”
The complaint also states that Vincenti created an atmosphere of fear around the hallways, leading some staff members to scamper at the sight of him.
The teacher also engaged in similar behavior with his students, according to the complaint. In one colorful incident, Vincenti apparently boasted to a group of students that he was well off financially.
A skeptical student, simply mentioned as R, did not buy the teacher’s claim, at which point, Vincenti verbally attacked R, saying: “Fuck you R. Kiss my ass in the Macy’s window.” In a similar incident, when a student, known as K, walked into his classroom, Vincenti ordered the student to knock before coming in.
“Knock on my fucking door before you come in my fucking class,” Vincenti allegedly ordered the student. When the student inquired who he was talking to, Vincenti remarked: “I’m fucking talking to you.”
In yet another student incident at the alternative school, where tough urban students are directed due to behavior, attendance, and other issues, Vincenti allegedly told a female student she was “not going to be shit in life,” according to the document.
An additional charge against Vincenti alleges that during the 2012-13 school year he would walk into school principal Sebastian Calabria’s office at about 7 a.m. and watch him in silence.
Edelman found Vincenti culpable of one of the cursing incidents. Edelman found the teacher innocent of leaving his students unsupervised. “No record exists as to when and for how long Vincenti was away from his room,” wrote Edelman. “Thus, I find, the district has failed to prove this allegation.”
Edelman found Vincenti had the right to air his opinion that faculty action did not conform with the teachers’ contract, but he did not have the right to be disruptive.
Vincenti was suspended previously for 120 days when the district brought tenure charges against the teacher some 13 years ago, according to the document. Edelman wrote that the more than decade old suspension is not proper to be taken into account in the latest ruling.
Vincenti will be suspended for one-half of school year 2014-15, wrote Edelman. “He must also undergo a psychiatric examination should the district require it, prior to his return to duty on February 1, 2015,” wrote Edelman. “Failure to do so or a report indicating he is unable to perform his duties shall result in his dismissal from service.”
Edelman described Vincenti as a “hothead” who could become a valuable member of the city’s school staff if he manages to assert some control over his behavior. “Were he able to control his temper, he could well be a productive and desired member of the Paterson staff,” wrote Edelman.