Supporters Speak Out on Behalf of 'Fired' Glen Rock Lunch Aide

Patricia Little alleges the district cast her aside after 43 years because Coleman School principal Dawn Cappadona targeted her. Her supporters criticized the school district Monday night.

Followed by a chorus of applauds, speaker after speaker told the Glen Rock school district they felt the abrupt dismissal of a longtime lunch aide was egregious.

Patricia Little, a special education and lunch aide for 43 years at Coleman School, received a letter two days before the start of the 2012-2013 school year informing her the district no longer needed her services. Little alleges Coleman School Principal Dawn Cappadona targeted her because of her age, 78, and says she made false claims that Little had pushed a child. It all amounted to bullying, Little claims.

Appearing before the school board again on Monday, Little said she hasn't received the answers she's been looking for. And she won't publicly, either.

Little was not permitted to discuss the letter Interim Superintendent Ray Albano had written her that spelled out the reasons she was not re-hired, as it fell into "personnel issues" and according to school officials, must be discussed privately. Albano offered a private meeting with her and Cappadona instead.

Before she was cut off by school officials, Little cited two passages in Albano's letter as the supposed cause for her not being rehired.

Little admitted that during the 2010-2011 school year there was a meeting between her, the head lunch aide and Cappadona over an incident in which a child was troubled by an incident at the soccer field and Little claims she gently told him to "'go play, you'll be fine,' the same way any parent would."

"I was asked by the principal to handle these types of situations a little differently in the future," she said, addressing the school board. "I don't understand how differently or how much better I could have explained it to him. I never heard another word about it thereafter. No inappropriate behavior strategies were [discussed] at that meeting."

The following year she says she never met formally with Cappadona, a contradiction of Albano's statement in the letter, she said.

"Never in a million years did I think I would receive my rejection letter two days before school started," Little said. "I was never notified or given a statement or reasons."

The decision to not let Little air the alleged dirty laundry in public did little to engender good feelings with the standing room-only crowd Monday night.

Albano has said the process of letting Little go was proper but supporters of Little said she's been bullied and mistreated by the district.

"This could have been handled in a much better way," said resident Ann Martino. "We should be giving this woman a party and a plaque... I think she needs a board of education hearing. She needs protection, obviously."

Martino, in a tense back-and-forth with board members and administrators, promised that if the district did not address Little's issues, she "would go further."

Others, including former students and colleagues, also came to Little's defense at the Monday night meeting.

A former student said the only person who helped her transition after moving to Coleman School was Little.

"To find out this woman was accused of pushing a kid was embarrassing," she said. "Because absolutely, under no circumstances, in any way shape or form, could she do that."

A former teacher also came to the aid of Little, lauding her as a dedicated member of the education community. 

"She gave so much time and love to the children," said Reggie Feinstein, a retired Coleman educator. "Pat, I just want to tell you how much we appreciate and recognize everything you did for the town of Glen Rock, for the children especially, for the teachers and the parents." 

Little has stated she might consider filing a discrimination case against the school 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.

JAFO September 25, 2012 at 08:21 PM
I feel for this woman, but I can't stand when supports blindly say stuff like "Because absolutely, under no circumstances, in any way shape or form, could she do that." Granted, she probably didn't push a kid, but how many times do you hear someone say stuff like that only to later find out that the accused did in fact do the "impossible" act (push someone, shoot someone, drive drunk, beat his wife, etc.)
MC Martino September 25, 2012 at 09:40 PM
My wife, Ann Martino is a poised and elegant lady. For the record Mr Kleimann, report the whole story. That tense "back and forth" between Ann and the Board you referred to was precipitated by one Board member who was smirking as my wife spoke. Were you paying attention? SMIRKING! How classless. Tasteless. How does someone like that even get on the Board in the first place. Is the field of candidates that shallow? Ah, but come reelection......come reelection.....
James Kleimann September 25, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Mr. Martino, Yes, I was there and paying attention. There was an exchange between your wife and Ms. McNabola but also Mr. Albano as well. Ms. McNabola smirked during the back-and-forth with your wife, that is true. Other members of the public later said they felt board members had been dismissive of comments and did not act appropriately. Terry Moore, a BOE member, said she felt one particular comment made from a member of the public was an insulting generalization. The focus of the article is the grievances of Ms. Little and comments made by residents in support of her, not comments related to perceived board/public conduct. And please, call me James.
Valerius "Diet" Publicola September 25, 2012 at 10:47 PM
She was nothing but abusive to the entire Board at the meeting. Maybe if she was respectful of the board the members would respect her. As for the aforementioned aide, she tried to turn the meeting into a hearing that the board and superintendent both told Mrs Little repeatedly that could not be discussed in public, but that she should make a private appointment. I find it strange that people think the board did something "wrong" here, when I'm sure any one of them wouldn't want something relating to their own employment to be brought out and discussed before the public and entire town.
Boyd A. Loving September 26, 2012 at 01:28 AM
is there a police report on file related to the alleged "pushing" incident? Written statements on file from any witnesses? A video from a surveillance camera perhaps?
John Hahn September 26, 2012 at 10:52 AM
MC Martino: To answer your question YES. the field of candidates are often 3 for 3 slots or 4 for 3 slots. Voter Turn-out is abysmal. Hovering in the 15 - 25 %. At least one of the current members was appointed by the board and this member is stepping down. This is the 2nd member of the board who was appointed to step down. OUR BOE is not a good example of Democracy in action. It is more an example of resident apathy or lethargy in in-action. Voters (non-voters) get the government they deserve. Note just don't call him Jimmy. He is a James. ;-)
USAUSA September 26, 2012 at 02:31 PM
We need a NEW BOE in Glen Rock, Rona is useless and needs to go, half the GR BOE needs to leave or get voted out and Rona should be first on the list! We also need a real Superintendent one with his or her own backbone not one being controlled by the BOE. The GR BOE has a list of potential Superintendent candidates, yet Rona McNabola admits to waiting and letting Ray Albano finish his temporary term. This is ridiculous if we can get a permanent Superintendent in Glen Rock for January 1st why are we not doing it? There is no cost savings; the only trouble is the BOE would no longer have Ray Albano’s strings to pull. Ms.Little I am sorry to say should file suit against Glen Rock and soon, also please publish that letter from Albano in the Glen Rock Gazette I am sure many of us would love to read the BOE's words via Albano's letterhead!


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