About 40 parents, teachers and staff from attended the meeting on Monday evening to express their displeasure with Principal Frank Verducci—an administrator they say they have "no confidence" in.
Music teacher and Bloomingdale Education Association President Tiffany Chung began by reading from a three-page prepared statement outlining the BEA's concerns about Verducci, who was not present at the meeting.
"With the change of administration this school year, we at Walter T. Bergen welcomed our principal, Mr. Frank Verducci, and were eager to collaborate with him," the statement said. "Our faculty was open to change. Many of our teachers took time during the summer months to personally welcome him to the district and offer assistance to help Frank transition smoothly into our building.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Verducci lacks trust, respect, communication, leadership skills, a desire to be a part of the school community, and the desire to support the staff. This has resulted in unsafe conditions for our students and staff, increased health concerns and fear. Numerous staff members are not comfortable being in a room alone with him due to his pattern of inconsistency and intimidation. The staff and students have suffered from this atmosphere. Therefore, the teaching staff at Walter T. Bergen will, as always, continue to provide the best educational environment for our students. However, we are no longer willing to tolerate this pattern of non-productive leadership.
"The teaching staff at the Walter T. Bergen School, with a vote of 20 to 1, with 2 absentations, have no confidence in Mr. Verducci's ability to lead this school."
Board President John Pituch interjected a few times as he did not want the public discussing personnel decisions. However, New Jersey Education Association consultant Ron Bivona said "the group is within their rights to express themselves. We're not discussing personnel decisions, we're discussing environment and their concerns."
The group continued with its speech, although Pituch refused to let the group refer to Verducci by name, and a few different teachers took turns giving examples of Verducci's alleged shortcomings in the workplace.
"In the beginning of the school year," teacher Christine Fleyzor read from the statement, "the staff became concerned with [Verducci's] lack of desire to enforce a discipline policy when two of our students were involved in an extreme physical altercation where blood was drawn. Two male teachers separated the students. The board regulation states that this offense warrants parental notification, removal from class environment; conference with administrator or designee; and possible suspension. Both students only received multiple days of detention and were put in the same room with a female teacher to serve it.
"The staff member was worried that the two students would be in another altercation with her being in the middle. Many staff members were concerned about the well-being and safety of all of our students. We wondered what message is sent to the school community when such lax consequences for violent behavior are considered adequate."
Other examples outlined in the statement included when students were caught looking at pornography on an iPhone, the principal allegedly laughed and no consequences were given; he allegedly pulled a student out of class and interrogated the child about the teacher's performance, he allegedly made the child so uncomfortable that the parents had to call the school and Verducci is no longer allowed to have contact with the student; he allegedly harassed a student about payments for a class trip to the point of the parent needing to contact the office to make it stop, among other things.
"I want them to have their voice and I want an answer for this, and as I said this is going to be heard Thursday by your county representative, I believe," Bloomingdale Superintendent Dr. Terrence Brennan said.
"Remember that you are subordinates to this man; you're treading very carefully on insubordination also. I'm warning you, you all can be charged with insubordination, so please be careful."
He added that he didn't want Verducci slandered when he was not there to defend himself.
After a brief recess, Pituch stated the board would not hear any more of the statements. He said the group could submit them and they would be reviewed, but piling on Verducci was out of the question.
Chung then said, "I feel that our right to free speech has been violated."
Members of the audience were further angered by the announcement that Verducci had been granted a contract for next year.
"I would just like to say that I respect each and every one of you 150 percent," Bloomingdale resident Elizabeth Campoli said to the board. "As a team, I have no faith. I don't think it's fair that the public is not allowed to hear this stuff."