The leading candidate for superintendent of the Easthampton Public Schools said his job offer was abruptly rescinded after he wrote an e-mail to the School Committee chairwoman and another female colleague, addressing them as “ladies.”
Vito Perrone, interim superintendent of West Springfield Public Schools, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette he was thrilled to be offered a three-year contract for the position on March 24. Perrone, who was once a principal and football coach in Easthampton, entered into negotiations with the Easthampton School Committee last week and was intent on accepting the job.
After reviewing the district’s offer, Perrone said he e-mailed School Committee Chair Cynthia Kwiecinski and Suzanne Colby, the committee’s executive assistant, to request a few changes to the contract, including salary changes for fiscal years 2025 and 2026, some additional vacation, and sick days. Here’s where Perrone apparently erred: He started the e-mail referring to Kwiecinski and Colby as “ladies.”
In his interview with the Gazette, Perrone said Kwiecinski later told him addressing the pair of women as “ladies” was a microaggression, and “the fact that he didn’t know that as an educator was a problem.”
“I was shocked,” Perrone told the Gazette. “I grew up in a time when ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ was a sign of respect. I didn’t intend to insult anyone.”
The School Committee revoked his job offer after meeting in executive session last Thursday, the Gazette reported.
Neither Perrone nor Kwiecinski responded Tuesday to requests for comment.
The School Committee members had initially voted 4-3 to appoint Perrone upon the retirement of district’s current superintendent, Allison LeClair, in June. In another bizarre twist, Perrone told the Gazette he was informed the committee had chosen him after the members sent a police officer to his Westhampton home for a well-being check shortly after midnight on the day of his interview.
“The police officer asked if I was OK because the School Committee was trying to get a hold of me,” he told the Gazette. “My interview ended at 8 o’clock and I ended up falling asleep around 10:15 ... I thought my phone was on, but I guess it wasn’t.”
He said he accepted the committee’s verbal offer when he was awake.
The district’s teachers union has sided with Perrone. More than 150 people turned out Monday to support Perrone at a rally organized by the Easthampton Education Association in front of the city’s Municipal Building.
“Changing votes behind closed doors is unacceptable!” the association, which represents the district’s teachers and staff, wrote in a Facebook post after news broke of Perrone’s dismissal. “Shame on the school committee for participating in cancel culture!”
On its Facebook page, the association displayed survey results showing various stakeholders and student leaders favored Perrone for superintendent over the other candidates. The association also called on members to write letters to the School Committee to voice support for Perrone.
The School Committee on Tuesday evening postponed a meeting to discuss the superintendent search and potentially vote on a new candidate.