The city’s teachers’ union is running a campaign calling for the removal of Emanuel Capers from the school board.
Union officials started a letter sending campaign to urge education commissioner Lamont Repollet to ratify the New Jersey School Ethics Commission’s recommendation to strip Capers of his position.
So far, 5,549 email letters have been sent.
The letter accuses Capers of “making derogatory statements online and to the community.” It also alleges Capers suggested teachers use “questionable digital platforms.”
“Urge him [Repollet] to stand with Paterson’s students, staff and community and release Emanuel Capers from the Paterson Board of Education. It’s clear that if he won’t be part of the solution, then he is a major part of the problem,” reads the letter.
Capers slammed John McEntee, Jr., president of the Paterson Education Association, the teachers’ union, for working with former district security director James Smith, to attack him.
“This is an example of bad leadership,” said Capers speaking of McEntee. He said McEntee is directing his union members in a “bad way.”
“The letter has no facts. He called me unethical. Where are his facts? I’m a board member fighting for teachers,” said Capers. He said he ended the district’s rubber room and opposed the layoff of more than 240 teachers in the district’s preliminary budget. “What’s unethical about that? This is just another bad attack. It’s him attacking another minority leader in the city.”
Capers said McEntee is attacking him for publicly advocating for the implementation of virtual learning in the district. The school district closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The district was not prepared to provide remote instructions to students.
Some parents backed Capers’ call for virtual learning. Some union members attacked them on Facebook.
“I was astonished when a teacher within the PEA attacked me for being a concerned mom who wanted answers about the lack of virtual lessons being given to Paterson students during this pandemic,” said Paula Alford, who has two children in the district. Most Paterson students were sent home with paper packets.
Alford described the conduct of one union member, who went by the name “Titi Nina” on Facebook, as “unprofessional.”
“Would she had done this to parent that wasn’t a minority? She felt empowered to do so because the union president, John McEntee, had screenshot some of my posts expressing my concerns and passed it around in their private emails,” said Alford.
Capers provided a letter where McEntee urges his members to not engage students using Google Hangout, Zoom, or via phone. The letter told teachers to only use Google Classroom and the district’s email system.
McEntee worried teachers would be falsely accused of wrongdoing if they used technology that wasn’t approved by the district. At the time, there were reports of so-called “Zoombombing,” incidents in which attackers displayed inappropriate content, including pornography, in video conference calls hosted using Zoom.
Capers said he never suggested teachers use Zoom. He said he suggested Google Meet. He said the school board later approved a virtual learning plan that directed teachers to use Google Meet. He said McEntee is singling out.
“The only reason that Mr. Capers feels singled out is that unlike other board members, Mr. Capers has already been found to have violated the ethics laws and has been recommended for removal,” said McEntee.
“The Ethics Commission recommended his removal and the teachers are asking the commissioner to side with the ethics panel,” said Smith. He filed the ethics charges against Capers. Smith had been directed to investigate Capers’ trip by superintendent Eileen Shafer and then-school board president Oshin Castillo.
Capers pointed out an administrative law judge dismissed the ethics case against him. However, the ethics panel rejected the judge’s findings. Now, it’s up to the education commissioner to decide the case.
Smith also took a jab at Capers’ two-year-old proposal for a multi-sport dome at School 15 that never materialized. “Commissioner capers is full of promises but never delivers. He said that he was going to put a bubble over at school 15 and I have yet to see them even blow bubbles,” said Smith.
Capers said he is not worried about the letter sending campaigns or the attacks from his critics.
“He’s never worried until it happens,” said Smith.
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