School Superintendent Loses Job Offer After ‘Microaggression’

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A prospective school superintendent said his new job offer was revoked after he was accused of including a “perceived microaggression” in an email. It only took one word, used to address two women, to “incense” the school committee members. Was it offensive? You decide.

Vito Perrone
Vito Perrone (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Vito Perrone was set to replace superintendent Allison LeClair upon her retirement after the Easthampton School Committee in Easthampton, Massachusetts, voted 4-3 to name him the district’s new superintendent. However, Perrone’s new job offer was revoked, thanks to an email he sent to some members of the school committee, Fox News reported.

Perrone, who had served as the principal of Easthampton High School from 2009 until 2015, was serving as the interim superintendent of West Springfield Public Schools, a district about 15 miles south of Easthampton when the district offered him the new superintendent job, and he said he couldn’t have been happier.

“I honestly felt like I was coming home to Easthampton,” Perrone said. “I coached football here. I was [the] principal here when we built the school. I have such wonderful memories,” he said. “I was excited to come back.”

Vito Perrone
Vito Perrone served as the principal of Easthampton High School from 2009 until 2015. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

While still negotiating his contract with the Easthampton district, Perrone began mingling with members of the community, The Blaze reported. That included attending a We the People spaghetti fundraiser at Easthampton High School, where he interacted with students and staff. According to Perrone, members of the Easthampton School Committee cornered him at the fundraiser, and during a lengthy, private discussion, the prospective school superintendent was informed that his job offer had been rescinded.

The problem? Vito Perrone had sent an email to some members of the school committee, in which his word choice was quickly called into question and labeled offensive. Apparently, Perrone had addressed two female members of the committee with a word that was deemed a “perceived microaggression.” That word was “ladies,” and according to Perrone, committee members were incensed that he had addressed Chairperson Cynthia Kwiecinski and Suzanne Colby, an executive assistant to the committee, as such in his email’s greeting.

According to Dictionary.com, “lady” can be “offensive” when used as an adjective. However, Vito Perrone used it as a noun in his email greeting. (Photo Credit: Screenshot, emphasis added.)

Of course, Perrone said he didn’t mean for the label of “ladies” to be offensive. In fact, he alleged it was just the opposite. Rather than a “microaggression” or an insult, he intended it as a sign of his respect towards the women, he said. However, it was “perceived” differently, and when it comes to “microaggressions,” perception — not intent — is all that matters.

“I grew up in a time in the ’60s and ’70s when ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ was a sign of respect,” Perrone explained. “I didn’t intend to insult anyone.”

Perrone apologized for his oversight, but the committee claimed that “as an educator,” he should have known better. Perrone reached out to the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents for help, but the association said he had no legal recourse since he hadn’t yet signed a contract with Easthampton. Of course, this left Perrone, who was willing to take a $14,000 pay cut for the Easthampton position, frustrated with how the situation unfolded.

“I don’t want people to think I was not willing to negotiate in good faith. I have chosen not to just leave it as ‘negotiations stalled,'” Perrone said. “I would rather share my truth, my sadness and disappointment, and try to find a way forward positively.”

Following the disappointing ordeal, Perrone said he would likely return to his former position as assistant superintendent of West Springfield, a position he held before he was named interim superintendent. But, he remained disappointed and saddened by the ordeal.

“Honestly, I am truly, truly disappointed that I won’t be in Easthampton in that building,” Perrone said. “I’m just sad.”

Vito Perrone was told his choice of salutation was both “hostile” and “derogatory.” Think about that, and think about how often you might have used the word “ladies” as a friendly greeting. It’s shocking that such an innocent and once respectful label is now a reprimandable offense. Unfortunately, that’s the problem with “microaggressions.”

According to Dictionary.com, microaggressions are subtle and often unintentionally offensive. (Photo Credit: Screenshot, emphasis added)

By definition, intent does not matter as “microaggressions” are “often unintentionally offensive.” They are also “subtle.” To me, that says they aren’t always easily recognizable as a “problem” until the “offended” points it out. That’s not very reassuring, is it? How many “microaggressions” might you have used today without even realizing it, ladies and gentlemen? How many people did I just offend with those words?

There’s a reason they are referred to as “perceived microaggressions.” Perception is all that matters, and since the sender of the message can’t foresee how it will be received, this becomes a very dangerous situation. It’s no wonder some people don’t want to talk to anyone at all anymore. Who knows what innocent remark will leave the recipient of the message “incensed,” leading to the messenger being reprimanded. It kind of gives all new meaning to the phrase, “Don’t shoot the messenger,” doesn’t it?