Serving Manhasset ‘a privilege and honor’ for outgoing Superintendent Butera

Serving Manhasset ‘a privilege and honor’ for outgoing Superintendent Butera
Outgoing Superintendent Vincent Butera said it was 'a privilege and an honor' to serve the Manhasset School District on Friday. (Photo from the Island 360 archives)

Monday marks the end of Manhasset Superintendent Vincent Butera’s five-year tenure at the helm, following a 2020 investigation that found he violated the school district’s sexual harassment policy.

A now-former Shelter Rock Elementary School teacher filed a complaint against Butera in September 2020 that he made her feel uncomfortable after hugging her twice in school and frequently visiting her classroom to “just stand in the back and stare,” according to NBC News.

Butera, in a statement through Jamie Moss of newsPRos (a public relations firm working on his behalf), reflected on his tenure leading the district and said he looks forward to what lies ahead.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the students and community of Manhasset and I am most grateful for the support that I have received throughout,” Butera said. “I look forward to my next chapter and the opportunity to positively impact and improve the lives of  students.”

Butera, who will be replaced by acting Superintendent Gaurav Passi, did not expand on what his next professional plans will be. District officials declined to comment on the matter.

Following Butera’s voluntary leave, the district hired the law office of Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert to investigate the allegations, according to reports. Two months later, the firm found that Butera’s actions were perceived as unwelcome by the teacher and deemed them a violation of the school district’s policy.

Blank Slate Media tried to obtain a document outlining the law firm’s findings through a public-records request in May, but Rosemary Johnson, deputy superintendent for business and operations, declined to release it, citing the district’s attorney-client privilege and saying the record’s disclosure would “result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The Manhasset Board of Education unanimously approved a separation agreement with Butera during a special meeting in February.

Butera will receive the full remainder of his annual pay, $286,844, until his contract expires on June 30, 2023, according to the agreement. Butera’s benefits will not be paid for by the district after July, according to the agreement.

Butera, in April, wrote to Blank Slate Media an op-ed giving his perspective on the complaint involving sexual harassment and the subsequent investigation that ended in his resignation from the district.

“It has always been my intent to demonstrate care and kindness in my personal and professional interactions,” Butera said. “Those who know me know that had I been made aware, I would have responded immediately and appropriately.”

According to court documents featured in ongoing litigation between the district and Newsday, the state Education Department launched its own investigation into Butera in late November. 

The “law enforcement investigation,” as it was described in court documents, directed Passi to provide the department’s Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability with “documentary evidence,” including “current and past incident report(s), notes taken, evidence gathered, interview notes, video, audio, photographs, complaint and witness statements and contacts,” among others pertaining to Butera.

Court documents showed that the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability’s investigation was pending as of April 19, but department officials said in a May statement to Blank Slate Media that they do not “confirm or deny the existence of investigations.” Documents show that the office’s investigation is in accordance with Part 83 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations.

Officials said Part 83 permits the department to conduct an investigation into allegations of “lack of good moral character” against “certified educators.”

“An educator facing charges in accordance with Part 83 is afforded the opportunity for a full due process hearing,” the statement from department officials said. “At issue when the Department initiates a Part 83 proceeding is whether the certified educator has the ‘good moral character’ to retain the certificate they hold.”

Board of Education President Pat Aitken previously acknowledged the “heated reaction in the school community” as a result of the investigation but said some of the claims against Butera by those urging that he be removed from his position were “uninformed.”

Aitken said Butera helped navigate the district through the initial year of the COVID-19 pandemic and prioritized the mental health and well-being of students, staff and families during his four-year tenure as superintendent.

“With the passage of time, both Dr. Butera and the district have mutually agreed that it is now best to put this chapter behind us,” Aitken previously said. “This understandably has been a difficult time for the Manhasset school community, Dr. Butera, and everyone involved in this matter. We remain hopeful this resolution will enable all to move forward.”

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