An email to Manhasset School District officials called for an investigation into the assistant superintendent for curriculum after he made statements to a journalist associated with the far-right Project Veritas site about diversity, equity and inclusion.
The email, signed by “Manhasset Parents.” was sent from the email address “[email protected].” Efforts to reach the sender’s to verify their identity were unavailing.
Donald Gately, who was hired by the district in 2022 to also oversee instruction and personnel, is the co-founder of EdCamp Long Island, described on its website as “a grassroots, teacher-led event that brings together educators from across the region to share their ideas and expertise.”
In a Project Veritas video released March 13, Gately said teachers now have kids with some parents that are “extremely conservative and right-wing.”
“Now you’re gonna have people make – they’re gonna connect politics to DEI work,” Gately continued.
Project Veritas is a right-wing group that has gained notoriety for recording undercover videos and releasing deceptively edited versions of them. The organization’s founder, James O’Keefe, known for targeting left-wing officials and groups, left his post in February.
The email called for the school district to launch an investigation into Gately and for him to be placed on leave until the probe is finished.
“We request that the Board of Trustees promptly place Dr. Gately on leave until the investigation is complete,” according to the email. “As you know, the board has a legal and fiduciary obligation to investigate this matter and we therefore respectfully request your immediate attention.”
Superintendent Gaurav Passi, in a March 17 letter to the Manhasset community, said parental input about curriculum is welcomed by the school district and that classroom instruction is outlined in Board of Education meetings archived on the district’s YouTube page.
“The district’s commitment has been and always will be on partnering with parents to cultivate a safe learning environment where students become independent thinkers who employ critical reasoning skills, work collaboratively, respect each other’s individuality, and embody integrity, honesty, empathy and compassion,” Passi said.
Passi said a majority of conversations surrounding students’ education and instruction are resolved at the classroom level, occasionally being escalated to the administrative level.
The email also expressed concerns about the district’s hiring practices after the Project Veritas video showed Gately saying he is a “Catholic in recovery.”
Other videos from Project Veritas allege that school districts discriminate in hiring of individuals based on political and religious beliefs.
Passi said this would be a cause for concern in the Manhasset School District if the organization’s claims had any validity but it doesn’t.
“The district does not utilize a rubric for the interview committee,” Passi said in the letter. “Nor do we ask questions to assess, in particular, a candidate’s political leanings or religious background. Because our district does not discriminate in our hiring process, committee members are instructed not to ask questions about a long list of items such as religion, marital status [or] organization memberships.”
Public concerns were addressed at an East Williston Board of Education meeting last week, where Gately’s wife, Danielle, serves as superintendent, about another Project Veritas video with statements made by David Casameto. Casameto is an assistant superintendent for the East Meadow school district who served as a director of technology in East Williston before leaving in 2017.
Comments made by Casamento include: “I think I said this before, but people don’t give up power, you have to take it from them…you stop hiring those types of people [conservatives]…we created a whole rubric for hiring in light of DEI.”
The video continues, showing him saying: “It’s all secret. So, I would rank them [conservatives] so low [in their interview process] that their score couldn’t possibly raise them up to the level of moving on to the cabinet.”
Some teachers and parents contended that Project Veritas’ video had been edited and highlighted the most revealing comments.
Project Veritas videos have also cited alleged attempts to indoctrinate school-age children with inappropriate reading materials, an allegation brought up at the East Williston meeting.
In responding to critical comments from parents about inappropriate library materials, East Williston Board of Education President Mark Kamberg said library texts are chosen based on “age-appropriate recommendations from a variety of professional organizations, including the American Library Association, School Library Journal, and Common Sense Media.”
The Great Neck Library’s most recent election included candidates discussing the hotly contested topic of banning books, specifically those with sexual and LGBTQ+ content.
Then-candidate Jessica Hughes said the question of whether or not to ban books did not center around censorship, but rather “promoting content that is divisive and exclusionary.”
Parental engagement, she said, should be welcomed by the board. Hughes touted the need to have community stakeholders be informed about what children will find in the libraries’ stacks of books.
Board members Mimi Hu and Rory Lancman opposed the idea of banning books as a whole in the Great Neck Library system.
“There is no place in the Great Neck Library or any other library to restrict content based on a topic if it makes you uncomfortable – LGBTQ, civil rights,” Lancman, who now serves as president, said during a candidate interview in October. “There is a long history in this country, unfortunately to this day, of people trying to ban, restrict, remove books from our libraries.”