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'Fired' Lunch Aide Accuses Coleman Principal of Ageism, Bullying

Patricia Little, employed in the district for 43 years, says Coleman Principal Dawn Cappadona forced her out of her job because she's 78 years old. Now she demands to know why she wasn't rehired this year.

A long-time special education and cafeteria aide is demanding an answer as to why she was "fired" just days before school opened.

Appearing at the Glen Rock Board of Education's Monday night meeting, Patricia Little, employed by the district for 43 years, accused Principal Dawn Cappadona of forcing her out because of her age.

"I feel I was bullied, I feel it was age discrimination and I would like to know the answers," Little, 78, told the board. "This is a personal vendetta, I feel ... and I want some answers from somebody before I do anything else about this."

Although she said she "loved" working with the students and teachers of Coleman for more than four decades, Little said she wasn't looking for her job back.

A special education aid for two decades before becoming a lunchroom aide in the 1980s, the former employee claimed other aides were rehired or transferred within district at her salary, leading her to believe it wasn't a money issue.

She had another theory, a more personal one.

"Maybe it's because the principal thinks I'm too old for the job," Little said, referring to Cappadona. Little claims her performance evaluations are spotless and she received no warning or cause for dismissal. She received a letter informing her she was no longer employed at Glen Rock two days before school opened.

Cappadona did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The lunch aide spoke of two alleged incidents she said were indications Cappadona had targeted her.

According to Little, while at the playground last year Cappadona asked her how long she'd been employed in Glen Rock. Upon hearing the answer 43 years, Little claims Cappadona said, "Don't you think you've been here long enough?"

In another alleged incident last year, Little said Cappadona accused her of pushing a student.

"I did not push a child down," Little said to the board Monday night. "When I asked her 'Please tell me who I pushed, when I pushed them and where I pushed them,' she said she was not at liberty to give me that information. And that was that." 

Little said the classroom teacher nearby was not aware of the alleged incident taking place.

"I feel I was accused of [an] incident I did not do and nobody can tell me the answers why," Little told the board, adding that she doesn't feel her age has impacted her abilities. "I'm here tonight to ask you, what are the answers to these questions?"

Glen Rock school board president Rona McNabola said Little's remarks on Monday were the first they'd been made aware of the dismissal or her allegations and could not immediately comment.

Interim Superintendent Raymond Albano told Patch at the conclusion of the meeting Little would be provided a reason for her dismissal but also had no further comment.

Little's remarks drew applause from a handful of residents at the Monday board meeting.

"I think the way Pat was unemployed from Glen Rock was a disgrace," Ann Martino told the school board. "I think this is a very odd and disgraceful way of saying 'Thank you Pat for your 43 years of service.'"

Martino continued: "I really hope the board takes the time to find out the answers to this situation. It's shameful, it's a disgrace." 

Following the meeting, Little told Patch she was considering filing an age discrimination lawsuit against the district.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Wanda Billet September 26, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Shame on the Glen Rock BOE! The sheer lack of decorum in the handling of this firing of Mrs. Little cries of unfairness, discrimination and unchristian-like behavior. I wonder if Principal Dawn Cappadona is a Christian. Mrs. Little deserves better than this. Oh, come on what has happened to Mrs. Little is disgraceful!!!
Elizabeth Cox September 26, 2012 at 11:27 AM
well said! how disgraceful-
Theresa Dewhurst October 04, 2012 at 07:13 AM
The most upsetting thing about this whole story is the way this was handled. Mrs. Little has been a wonderful friend to many, many children over the years. She deserved better treatment after all the years she spent with our kids. A letter two days before the term started was NOT the way to go. "too old" is not a reason for the rest of the community to accept such horrible treatment of someone we should respect.
John January 15, 2013 at 08:57 PM
The Coleman School Principle Cappadona is a cold person who is unfit to work with children. Not sure what exactly her function at this school are, she is never helpful when it comes to real issues, opens the doors in the morning and at the end of the day and picks up trash around the school - $146K a year seems a bit too much of a compensation for this kind of work. A lot of staff at this school is mean to the kids and has a crippled sense of reality
John January 15, 2013 at 09:00 PM
Well said! My full support!

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