More than 100 people – among them at least few dozen students — filled the auditorium in John F. Kennedy High School last Wednesday when Kevin Michael Henry ran up the stage, towered over the schools superintendent, and erupted.
Henry unloaded several racial epithets at state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans at point-blank range which he now regrets. “I want to apologize to the students that I offended,” he said on Friday afternoon. “The citizens of Paterson deserved better than this.”
Henry’s emotional explosion came about because two hours prior to the swearing in ceremony he was handed a letter which stated he was disqualified from taking office. He was disqualified due to criminal records from some 25 years ago that turned up during a state background check.
His apology encompassed everyone in the auditorium except for the superintendent who was the target of his angry outburst.
“I’m not going to apologize to the superintendent,” said Henry. He said he shouldn’t have reacted as strongly as he did but noted that he was upset over the disqualification.
Henry blamed Evans for the disqualification even though the letter disqualifying him from taking office came from the New Jersey Department of Education’s Criminal History Review Unit (CHRU), a division that conducts background checks on anyone seeking positions in New Jersey schools.
The disqualified winner of last November’s school board election said the district could have informed him at least a week before the swearing in ceremony that he was disqualified from taking office.
Evans received the letter just hours before it was sent to Henry, according to fax stamp on the letter.
Henry has picked up petitions to get his name on the ballot for the 1st Ward city council seat for the May municipal elections. When asked whether he is concerned the same fate awaits him if he captures the seat from incumbent Michael Jackson.
“Maybe,” said Henry. “I don’t know.” He maintained the school board seat was unjustly taken from him.
The Passaic County superintendent of schools Robert Davis appointed longtime school board member Errol Kerr to replace Henry.
Henry’s remark received condemnation from many including school board president Christopher Irving who thought the epithets were inappropriate, but urged Henry to take his case to the court against the state.
“I said it, I shouldn’t have,” said Henry. “You can’t take back, but apologize.”