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Easthampton school superintendent search clouded in controversy after alleged 'microaggression'

Vito Perrone, the interim school superintendent in West Springfield, interviewing for Easthampton's school superintendent job on March 23, 2023.
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Easthampton Media
Vito Perrone, the interim school superintendent in West Springfield, interviewing for Easthampton's school superintendent job on March 23, 2023.

The Easthampton, Massachusetts, school committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday to determine the next steps in its search for a superintendent. That's after it rescinded an offer to a candidate.

The school committee had offered the job to Vito Perrone, the former principal at Easthampton High School and current interim superintendent in West Springfield, after a close vote.

Published reports said the school board later pulled the offer over what's been termed a microaggression. He addressed the board's chair Cynthia Kwiecinski and executive assistant Suzanne Colby as "ladies" in an email intended to discuss contract negotiations. Perrone has said he didn't intend to be offensive and that he still wants the job.

When reached by phone Monday afternoon, Perrone declined an interview, but said the situation has become "overwhelming" and that he plans to let the process play out.

Debora Lusina is a former school committee member who worked with Perrone when he was the high school’s principal. She said Perrone is a great leader and someone Easthampton would be lucky enough to have running its schools. She also said the current school committee went too far.

"We don't want to be known as a city where you could lose your job if you misuse a word," Lusnia said. "Our city strives to be a very welcoming place, a place of acceptance and inclusion where we show respect to one another, and we all make mistakes."

Lusina was organizing a protest over the situation scheduled for Monday evening in an effort to tell the school board Perrone should have his offer reinstated.

Kwiecinski, the school committee chair, did not return a request for comment.

The assistant for Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said the mayor is “awaiting legal clarification around Executive Session privilege before commenting.” LaChapelle sits on the school board and much of the discussion around Perrone has taken place behind closed doors.

As for whatever the future holds for the Easthampton schools, Lusnia, who served two terms as the school board chair, said she’s confident the community will move forward in a positive direction after this controversy.

"We've got a lot of great, positive things going on here and great people," Lusnia said. "There's no doubt we can pull this together and we can move forward and we can be better for it."

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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