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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.

JV September 12, 2012 at 11:07 AM
While it is hard to know whether deserved or not, the principal named in this story has a reputation for being difficult to work with and hard to deal with. Perhaps she's the one who has been in her job long enough.
Mark Ruckhaus September 12, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Mrs. Little got fired? My kids went to Coleman and had nothing but nice things to say about her. Matter of fact, I don't recall anyone, kids or adults, who had a bad word for her. She's such a sweetie and a nice person.
USAUSA September 12, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Once again the GR BOE continues to make obvious mistakes without regard to anyone or the rules. I am not sure if this aide is at fault but in this day and age we need to handle our human resource issues with more litigious restraint. Heard and seen Cappadonna is a problem and a brown nose, which is why the least effective Principal in the district still has her job. I hope this aide doesn’t get an attorney; she may just have a case!
jp1 September 12, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Sounds like a principal with an axe to grind. I think Mrs. Little should get a lawyer and sue for discrimination.
Rock September 12, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I thought all of the aides were outsourced? If so, wasnt she fired by the vendor ?
James Kleimann September 12, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Interim Superintendent Raymond Albano asked her that and she replied that she never worked for outsourcing and was an employee of the Glen Rock Board of Education.
Ann Martino September 12, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Mrs. Little was a lunch aide not a teacher's assistant. Lunch Aides are GRBOE employees.
JM September 12, 2012 at 04:34 PM
My kids had Mrs. Little too and she was wonderful. I find it hard to believe that she would push anyone!
lee resnick September 12, 2012 at 09:46 PM
No respect for our senior citizens!!!
John Van Heest September 13, 2012 at 01:55 AM
It's about time give somebody else a chance too many unemployed
John Van Heest September 13, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Give somebody else a job. Too old
John Van Heest September 13, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Thank god! It's about damn time. I thought she was LONG gone. I strongly, STRONGLY disliked her 16 years ago when she was my lunch aide at Coleman. I dreaded recess because Of her. I remembering staying as far away from her, staying at the back of the playground. I'm just sharing my honest experience. I am related to her and she abandoned the family years ago. Such a shame.
John Van Heest September 13, 2012 at 02:01 AM
That last post was from Kara Van Heest.
jp1 September 13, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Did you ever think that this person may need this job just as much as anyone else?
Elizabeth Cox September 14, 2012 at 03:14 PM
no one steps up to do this job except for the older population! i thank them for doing this and putting up with our kids!
John Hahn September 14, 2012 at 08:52 PM
John Van Heest I presume you are a younger man. I can only hope when you are 78 you are treated with more respect than you give this woman. You sound like someone who wants to be on a death panel somewhere. Deciding who lives and who dies. I can only hope with time you will mellow and be more tolerant especially of senior citizens. If you are lucky you may be one someday.
Quantanya Richardson September 16, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Van Heest needs to keep his and her personal business out of this..talk about a disgrace! As for Cappadona, someone needs to give her the boot...she is a clueless administrator who has no idea how to deal with people in a respectful way. She runs a school that is known for bullies and does nothing to stop it...Coleman kids have a rep for being the most difficult to deal with in the district...The jig is up, Dawn, someone needs to push you out, right out of that school!!!!!
LJ September 21, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I was shocked to see the letting go of Mrs. Little. Have known her for many years and my kids have had the pleasure of having her as a lunch aide at one time or another. They never had a complaint and as a matter of fact, always had good things to say about her. A letter 2 days before school opening is a cheap shot and the cowards way out of getting rid of someone. .
Ed Perry September 24, 2012 at 12:39 AM
I was also shocked hearing of this from my nephew and niece. I have known Mrs Little for 40 years and she has always been the greatest person to know! I would give Mrs Little the benefit of the doubt every time. This is what is wrong with schools, they pick on the people who have dedicated their lives to the children of Glen Rock, been apart of the families who have lived here. Been a great neighbor in Glen Rock and this is how the system treats her! Shame on the BOE, Principle and Glen Rock politicians
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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