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Dec 7, 2017 4:32 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Canceling Of School Board Meeting Angers Parents, Students Looking To Defend Teacher

Bella Recine made pins that read: #WeStandWithMayo.
Dec 12, 2017 5:58 PM

Hundreds of angry parents, students and teachers intent on demanding that the Eastport South Manor School District allow a popular substitute science teacher keep his job were denied an opportunity to do so after Superintendent Patrick Brimstein canceled last week’s scheduled Board of Education meeting, citing the potential fire hazard created by the attendees.

They had gathered to defend Glenn Mayola—an untenured science teacher hired by the district in 2012 as a permanent substitute, and promoted to a “probationary teacher” in July 2014, according to Mr. Brimstein—after he violated the high school’s “no food” rule, which prohibits students from eating in class, when he used M&Ms as part of a science lab session held a week before Thanksgiving, according to multiple students.

In a interview last month, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Linda Weiss originally denied that any such incident involving food had taken place at the high school. But in a subsequent interview held before last week’s canceled meeting, Ms. Weiss confirmed that an incident involving food did take place in the high school’s science laboratory last month but that it involved the entire science department staff—and not just one teacher.

“There was definitely an issue of food, and it was handled as issues are always handled,” she said on December 1. “The principal met with all science staff because cross-contamination of food cannot be allowed in the lab.”

Mr. Mayola did not attend last week’s meeting, held in the board’s normal meeting room at the high school on December 6, and could not be reached for comment this week.

Board of Education members were scheduled to meet again last night, December 13, in the cafeteria of the junior-senior high school on Moriches-Middle Island Road in Manorville.

At last week’s meeting, board members had been expected to vote on extending an unidentified teacher’s tenure review to June 30, 2018, in response to a written request by the same employee and dated November 29, 2017. But the meeting was cut short when a representative of the Brookhaven Town fire marshal’s office declared a fire hazard, pointing to the hundreds of people crammed in the small room that, at the time, did not have an occupancy limit sign posted. A sign has since been added, according to the superintendent.

Board members were expected to resume discussion of the same tenure review request at last night’s meeting.

Reading from a prepared statement at last week’s meeting, Mr. Brimstein told attendees: “While I’m not able to discuss a specific record of a particular employee … no teacher has been dismissed from his or her employment during the current school year.”

In response, several angry parents shouted: “What about next year?!” and “That’s not good enough!”

When reached last Thursday, December 7, Mr. Brimstein refused to say if the teacher in question was Mr. Mayola, only offering: “If someone is clearly not meeting expectations and has other performance concerns once their employment term runs out, that person is no longer employed.”

The superintendent, who arrived in ESM earlier this year, noted that teachers who hold the title of “probationary teacher” are eligible for tenure following three years of employment—though a 2015 amendment to state education law allows the tenure track to take an additional year, for a total of four. Since Mr. Mayola earned his promotion prior to the change, he should have been eligible for tenure this year.

Mr. Brimstein added that if a teacher requires “additional time or coaching,” he or she can have their probationary period extended for an additional year, as per state law.

An outraged parent, who later identified herself as Debbie Foglia, argued that the rescheduling of last week’s meeting could have been avoided if the board had better prepared or listened to at least a half-dozen requests to move the meeting to a larger venue. Those requests were denied by Board of Education President Karen Kesnig who said there was “no where else to move the meeting.”

“We really love this teacher,” Ms. Foglia said of Mr. Mayola. “He’s made a big difference in a lot of kids’ lives. I don’t understand why this meeting was handled like this. It’s a problem that the new superintendent didn’t plan better.”

Emily, one of Mr. Mayola’s students who requested that her last name not be published, said she was in one of the science labs late last month, and said that Mr. Brimstein came in to observe the educator. She added that Mr. Mayola learned a short time later that his job could be in jeopardy.

Mr. Brimstein declined to say if he observed Mr. Mayola, or warned him that he could be denied tenure. The superintendent said he could not discuss personnel issues or risk violating state law.

He did add, however: “Lab safety is, of course, a concern and that practices in labs should be followed to mitigate risk.

“That doesn’t apply to certain teachers and not the other—it applies to all,” he continued. “Sometimes we need to remind people of those safety procedures.”

Sage Papile, a former student of Mr. Mayola’s, said most of the high school’s science teachers violate the district’s “no food” rule with regularity, adding that she does not know why administrators are targeting Mr. Mayola.

“The problem is that Mr. Mayola isn’t tenured,” she said. “Most teachers use food in labs. It has never been a problem until this year.”

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There are these things called "elections" that apply to school boards. I suggest the good people of Eastport take back control of their school budget from these $200,000 to $400,000 per year compensation package bureaucrats.
By dfree (548), hampton bays on Dec 8, 17 9:13 AM
Reform ESM. The taxes are ridiculous!
By Mouthampton (409), Southampton on Dec 9, 17 5:28 PM
1 member liked this comment