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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
8 Apr 2023
Lance Reynolds

NextImg:Easthampton School Committee chairwoman on Massachusetts superintendent ‘ladies’ email controversy: ‘I was insulted’

The chairwoman of the Easthampton School Committee, who rescinded a job offer to a superintendent finalist because he called her and her assistant “ladies” in an email, has broken her silence, offering advice to the next finalist: Be more professional.

Speaking out for the first time in the wake of her committee becoming a point of controversy, Cynthia Kwiecinski on Thursday told the Daily Hampshire Gazette she felt insulted for being called a lady, “a familiarity that he had not earned.”

Vito Perrone, the interim superintendent of West Springfield Public Schools, used the term in an email that was going over three negotiation points after the School Committee had offered him the superintendent job on March 24.

“It is true that I was insulted by the familiarity with which the candidate addressed me and the committee’s executive assistant in correspondence that was part of a salary negotiation,” Kwiecinski wrote in her email to the Gazette. “While I speak informally most of the time, if I am addressing a public official — especially in written communication, and even more so if engaged in salary negotiations — I would always use formal titles.

“The salutation ‘Ladies’ raised concerns among most that the candidate might make administrators and teachers feel uncomfortable if used in the future instead of calling them by their names or titles.”

The School Committee had a meeting scheduled earlier this week, but it had to be canceled after hundreds of people tried to log into the Zoom. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, when a superintendent candidate discussion and/or potential vote on a candidate to be the next superintendent is expected.

In an interview with the Herald earlier this week, Perrone said growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the terms “ladies” and “gentlemen” were respectful, and it’s why he used “ladies” in the email.

“I was devastated,” Perrone told the Herald. “I was very excited about the prospect of coming back to Easthampton where I was a principal before, and to have it taken away like that is pretty devastating.”

Perrone is receiving support from state Sen. John Velis, D-Hampden and Hampshire, which represents Easthampton.

“This appears to be an over-the-top and disproportionate response to something, that if nothing else, could have been used as a teachable moment,” Velis said of the School Committee’s decision. “Enough is enough.”