After filing tenure charges against the teachers’ union president last week, the city’s school district placed him on unpaid suspension.
John McEntee, president of the Paterson Education Association, has been suspended without pay effective March 30th, 2017 for the next 120 days, confirmed Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for the Paterson Public Schools on Monday morning.
McEntee’s salary is $68,500, according to district payroll records.
McEntee was charged with two counts of unbecoming conduct in documents filed with the New Jersey Department of Education on March 29th, 2017. The charges against him stem from an interaction with the vice-principal of Frank Napier Academy or School 4 on December 19th, 2016.
Sharon Davis, the vice-principal, was having a meeting with Irene DelRosso, the district’s supervisor for federal programs, at about 1:40 p.m. McEntee and Sasha Wolf, an attorney with the union, knocked on her office door.
McEntee and Wolf asked Davis whether she was busy. She indicated she was, but allowed them into her office. Davis invited both of them to sit down, but McEntee refused and instead walked around her desk, according to the district’s account of events.
The district alleges McEntee blocked Davis from exiting the room by walking around. McEntee asked Davis questions about confidentiality text she included in her email signature when corresponding with staff members. After that he allegedly began screaming at Davis, according to the district’s charging documents obtained from the New Jersey Department of Education.
McEntee threatened to file a grievance. Upon hearing this, Davis said the school’s principal Marc Medley should be present if his visit was about a possible grievance. She tried to call Medley while McEntee was allegedly screaming at her, claims the district’s filing.
Davis could not get Medley on the phone. The district claims McEntee became “agitated” and moved closer to Davis pointing his finger less than a foot from Davis’ face. She tried to leave from behind her desk, but the president allegedly blocked her path to the exit while shouting at her.
“Who do you think you are? I am not one of your teachers!” McEntee allegedly shouted at her. The district’s account has been questioned by others at the school. One staff at the school said Davis was heard screaming back at McEntee.
The charging document makes no mention of Davis’ yelling at McEntee. Davis’ office is next to the teachers’ lounge. Teachers at the breakroom heard the interaction, according to documents filed with the state.
“We are done here. Please leave my office and the school,” Davis is to have said to McEntee, according to the district’s filing.
McEntee allegedly screamed at her stating he was not going to leave. Davis phoned for security. “You can’t make me leave!” McEntee allegedly shouted at her after she called security while walking towards the exit of the office.
McEntee stepped out into the hall. He was visiting the school with Wolf and Charles Ferrer, 1st vice-president of the union. He paced outside of the office while shouting before leaving the building with Wolf and Ferrer, claims the district.
“I was not at the meeting. I was still in the teachers’ room,” said Ferrer on Monday afternoon when asked about the incident. He remained at the teachers’ lounge after the three-hour long meeting with district staff.
Wolf, who the district’s filing says was in the meeting, did not respond to a call for comment.
Davis felt “verbally and physically intimidated” and contacted police, according to the district’s filing. Later in the day, McEntee sent an email to Davis which had all staff copied in stating the vice-principal prematurely ended their discussion about the confidential statement in her emails by “forcibly” ejecting him using school security.
The district alleges McEntee’s statement was false and that he was not forcibly ejected from the building. The district appears to have investigated the incident. Its complaint with the state lists testimonies from 11 staff members including McEntee and Davis. The district also has surveillance footage from the date when the incident occurred.
Ferrer, who has taken on the duties of the president in McEntee’s absence, said the district’s filing appears to be one-sided. He said the union looks forward to clearing McEntee of the allegations.
“The true story will come out,” said Ferrer.
McEntee has said the district is targeting him for his vocal advocacy in support of teachers. Part of his advocacy for teachers included criticism of the superintendent. In September 2016, he organized a vote of no confidence in state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans citing cuts in security and nurses. He further embarrassed Evans by leaking a court filing that showed Evans was acting as an instrument of the state government to undermine the landmark Abbott v. Burke which assures adequate funding for poor children in New Jersey’s historically underfunded schools like those in Paterson.
Evans is not looking for the revocation of McEntee’s tenure or his dismissal, but his suspension, according to a letter he sent to staff members.
Teachers were not fond of Davis when she was working at the district. Davis was tough with evaluations that placed them at risk of losing their jobs. Her evaluations placed 20 teachers on corrective action plans when she was working at School 21, said Ferrer. When the principal of School 4 held a farewell ceremony for Davis teachers boycotted the early morning event.
“Everything we did was protected union activity,” McEntee told teachers at a support rally last week. Teachers have called the charges against their president “bogus” and ought to be dropped.
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This report was updated on April 4th, 2017 at 11:35 a.m.