Internal Emails: Asbury Park Acting Superintendent Berates Teacher Union President, Plus Where’s That $22 Million Going?

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Below are six emails between Asbury Park Acting Superintendent Rashawn Adams and Asbury Park Education President John Napolitani, which I received from four  sources on Friday. They cover the timespan of one week (they’re dated either Friday, October lst or Friday, October 8th) and reveal, for the upteenth time, the administrative dysfunction that is Asbury Park Public Schools.

For those playing catch-up, Adams is part of the “Repollet Crew,” those favored by former Asbury Park Superintendent and Governor Murphy’s first Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, who urged board members this past May to anoint Adams. The district school board followed orders and voted for Adams from a pool of one. (The other candidate dropped out before the board conducted interviews and never would have gotten the job anyway.)

In the first email Napolitani asks about community input into the distribution of ESSER funds, which are federal stimulus funds intended to address learning loss during the pandemic and upgrades to buildings to minimize transmission of COVID-19;  U.S. Education Department regulations require school districts to seek “broad public input” as they develop their plans. He attaches an email from NJEA suggesting that local leaders advocate for involvement in planning how to spend the $22 million allotted to Asbury Park.

Adams responds that afternoon by chiding Napolitani for being “deliberately disrespectful” because he didn’t address him as “Dr. RaShawn M. Adams.” (Napolitani wrote, “Acting Superintendent RaShawn Adams.”) Napolitani apologizes in the next email, adding, “it amazes me that this is the only thing that you’re worried about when we’re trying to fix the problems in the district.”

A week later, October 8th, Napolitani emails Adams again, asking why he has received no response to his original request for input. He writes,

I am receiving emails, texts and phones calls about the lack of masks, lack of communication in regard to students and staff that have covid, classes that were sent home, minimal cleaning supplies, security officers being told to log students requesting a mask, and multitude of other issues as it relates to Covid. Since I have not gotten a formal response as it relates to the over $22 million in ESSER funding OUR district received, and we are a stakeholder, I find the lack of a response, in your words, ‘deliberately disrespectful’  because you think I wasn’t being respectful. Dressing me down on a reply all to the original email because I omitted your title is a total insult.

 

Four hours later Adams responds by rebutting Napolitani’s claims and making a few of his own. Napolitani writes back three hours later rebutting the claims from Adams and says neither he nor his members have ever seen the plan to spend ESSER funding.

And so it goes in Asbury Park. Here are the emails.

Email #1, Friday October lst from Napolitani to Adams: 

Good Morning Acting Superintendent RaShawn Adams,

I hope you are enjoying this crisp fall day. I am forwarding the email in regard to the ESSER funding for the Asbury Park School District. I have a couple of questions. Will the APEA Leadership be involved in the process and plan as per the attached document? Will the community have say in this as well? Please advise at your earliest convenience. I have had several calls in regard to this funding as it is an extremely large sum of money, almost equal to the amount the district lost over the past several years.

Thank you and have a great weekend if we don’t speak sooner.

In Solidarity,

John Napolitani

President

—–Original Message—–

From: Tracie Yostpille 

To: John Napiltani 

Sent: Thu, Sep 30, 2021 11:40 am

Subject: ESSER

FYI

American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds are available for your district. How can those funds be used? Here are some documents to assist you as you meet with your administrators on the spending of the ARP funds.

Recently, the state’s SEA ARP spending plan was approved by US ED, and finalized the following New Jersey deadline.

LEA’s will be required to submit their plans for uses of ARP ESSER funds to the NJDOE in November 2021.

There is still ample time for locals and members to get involved with meaningful consultation with their districts to discuss and collaborate on useful and effective spending of ARP funds. Upon return to schools in September, local leaders began advocating for this process, if it has not already begun.

How Can Your District Spend the Money?

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qZo7X7y5bAsZmWXCAJVZE1JYdj_5fZ1u/view

What Did Your District Get

https://www.nj.gov/education/esser/docs/ARP_ESSER%20III%20Fund%20Allocation%20Table.pdf

Tracie Yostpille

Field Representative

Region 9 UNISERV

NEW JERSEY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

Email #2, October 1st, from Adams to Napolitani:

Good Morning APEA President John Napolitani,

It’s Dr. RaShawn M. Adams.  Once again, you will properly address me  as Dr. RaShawn M. Adams, as I have previously discussed and put in writing to you. Your communication is deliberately disrespectful.  Until such times as you properly address me as such then at the point a response will be forthcoming.

Dr. RaShawn M. Adams

Acting Superintendent of Schools

Email #3, October 1st, from Napolitani to Adams:

My bad. This was an honest oversight on my part, Dr. RaShawn M. Adams. It amazes me that this is the only thing that you’re worried about when we’re trying to fix the problems in the district and work with you including but not limited to scheduling matters, weapons and violence in the school, confusing lockdowns, special education services, etc.

Very yours truly,

Mr. John P. Napolitani Sr.

Township of Ocean Deputy Mayor

APEA President

Monmouth County EA 1st Vice President

Hope this now allows you to respond.

Email #4, October 8th, from Napolitani to Adams:

Dear Dr. Adams,

 Pursuant to the below email thread between you and I in regard to the ESSER funding, I still have not received a response to my original question. Since I “properly” addressed you in my response where mind you, I admitted it was my oversight and not “deliberately disrespectful”, as you claimed, you stated that a response would be forthcoming. Here we are, a week later and still no response yet.

For the record, I am receiving emails, texts and phones calls about the lack of masks, lack of communication in regard to students and staff that have covid, classes that were sent home, minimal cleaning supplies, security officers being told to log students requesting a mask, and multitude of other issues as it relates to Covid. Since I have not gotten a formal response as it relates to the over $22 million in ESSER funding OUR district received, and we are a stakeholder, I find the lack of a response, in your words, “deliberately disrespectful” because you think I wasn’t being respectful. Dressing me down on a reply all to the original email because I omitted your title is a total insult.

I find it unconscionable that the only thing you were worried about in my email with everything going on in this district is the title I mistakenly omitted from my original correspondence. For the record, I have my Association members copied on this correspondence because quite frankly, I am getting tired of not having responses to the legitimate questions and concerns the staff have being on the front line of education. And since I too am now in those front lines, I have a much clearer and concise picture of what everyone is dealing with on a daily basis.

So I will rephrase it again: “Will the APEA Leadership be involved in the process and plan as per the attached document? Will the community have say in this as well? Please advise at your earliest convenience.”

Finally, in our Labor Relations meeting on August 2, which was virtual, I was clear to you that day and I will reiterate it again now. We need to work together while you are in charge. Whatever happened in the past be it with a survey the Association conducted in May, a blog that we have no control over, the issues in the Middle School while you were at the helm there, understand that I was very forthcoming. I advised you then and I’ll say it again, you are the Acting Chief School Administrator and I am the APEA President that represents 400 staff. We need to work together for the betterment of the district so that we can move the district forward together.

John Napolitani

APEA President

Email #5, October 8th, from Adams to Napolitani:

Good Morning APEA President Napolitani

In response to the inquiry regarding the ESSER funds the district was allocated, please be reminded this information is part of the public record from the previous Asbury Park School District’s Board of Education meeting minutes. You are more than welcome to review those minutes to update yourself on those specifics.  The district will focus on ensuring utilization of those funds to affect learning deficits and improve facilities within the organization.  The APEA is welcome to share their suggestions and ideas that would address those two critical areas.

In addition, the community as represented by the Asbury Park School District Board of Education members, is the key stakeholder in the proper vetting of the allocation of those funds. The district has just replaced our Asbury Park School District’s Bilingual Community Parent Involvement Specialist, Lizmaira Lugo, and she will be making contact with the various community partnerships and parents related to the ideas and allocation of those funds.

The Asbury Park School District is fully compliant and following all the current reporting protocols that are outlined by the Monmouth County Health Department and Executive Orders. The district has also been in constant communication with Monmouth County Executive Superintendent, Dr. Les Richens, on matters that must be reported and he has provided advice on those that are questionable. To that end, we have been totally transparent in our reporting and accurate accounting of all matters pertaining to COVID. It is critically important to know while following these guidelines, we are still legally bound to protect the confidential information of both students and staff. We have assigned a full-time Asbury Park School District nurse, Mrs. Mary Femiano, to this task.

As it relates to your assertion that “lack of masks, minimal cleaning supplies and security officer’s log  of mask request”, the Asbury Park School District has and continues to provide masks to students, staff, and visitors at each school (adult size and youth size) who have misplaced or did not bring a mask. We are providing approximately 100 masks daily. We continue to remind everyone to bring a mask from home through mass telephone calls, building leader reminders and video messages. We do not have a lack of cleaning supplies and each location is responsible for following proper COVID protocols. I want to reiterate our custodial teams are the primary reason our buildings are open and functioning. The Buildings & Grounds Department has over extended themselves ensuring our buildings are ready to receive students and staff on a daily basis. They continue to consistently apply the safety and cleaning measures to their respective buildings. Presumably, the security officers are keeping a log of mask requests  to ensure an accurate account for resupply. Our school safety officers are the APSD’s front line employees encountering many individuals without masks. I am appreciative and thank them daily for their incessant effort and energy they display in doing their jobs.

The Asbury Park School District’s Human Resource Department has emailed various communications to all employees about mask requirements dating back to July and August. We have recently sent communication regarding the numerous vaccination opportunities in district and the upcoming COVID testing for October 18th . However, we are still awaiting responses from many employees to that email request.

I have attempted, via my secretary, to arrange on July 7th, July 12th and as recent as September 30th  for a Labor Relations meeting in an effort to continue open dialogue with APEA as well as APASA leadership. The space and opportunity to meet is available just communicate when you are ready with Ms. Lopez to be placed on my schedule. Otherwise, you can catch me at MLKUE conducting my weekly administrative walk-throughs assessing the quality of teaching and learning of the APSD. I am easily accessible and extremely visible in all schools to ensure that our 1,500 students, 400 APEA staff, and the 100 additional Non-Association staff are my daily priority.

I am actively focused on improving the life opportunity for the students through educational pathways. Asbury Park is a unique community that requires unwavering commitment to our students.  A community traditionally underserved, overlooked while being placed in the margins of society locked out of current and future economic access. My role as the Acting Superintendent of Schools will always center on the aforementioned.

Your availability to meet daily is from 7:50am until 8:50am, Monday-Friday during your hour Union Association time. Please contact Ms. Lopez to arrange a meeting.

Dr. RaShawn M. Adams

Acting Superintendent of Schools

Asbury Park School District

910 Fourth Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712

Email #6, October 8th, from Napolitani to Adams:

Thank you for the prompt response. I would like to clarify a few points.

First, could you please forward the plan for the $22 million? It would be pointless for us to send suggestions since we were not part of the planning from the beginning.

As for the reporting protocols, I keep getting emails and texts in regard to limited if any notifications being given to staff. So I will have them send correspondence to the building principal directly and they can copy you with these concerns.

Next, Mike Byers has been made aware of some of the issues as it relates to PPP at our Rep council meeting. He will be reaching out to the buildings as well as Walter Sosa. Yes the October 18 deadline is approaching so do we have updated information on the testing? Many staff are requesting information on this as well.

As for Labor Relations, let me correct you. If we met on August 2, how did I not respond to you July 7 and July 12? As for the September 30 correspondence, I sent a response to your secretary. Michael Zajac, does not get to work until 8:50am, so this time does not work. So please don’t make it look like I did not respond.

Please understand I am not going to try to “catch” you while you’re doing a walkthrough at DMLKUES. If your position is to not schedule a time where my team can meet because you’re only available time is 7:50am, due to my 1 hour you have allocated, then this is truly a shame.

Finally, I think this goes for all the staff, especially the ones in the trenches that were all “focused on improving the life opportunity through educational pathways”. However, stopping in for a 10 minute walkthrough does not help the staff improve much other than put everyone on edge, including the students who have 9 adults coming in to rummage through a teachers desks, look for plans, and host of other things.

In closing, if I truly knew you and I could work together collectively to create a plan to move this district forward, I would be more than happy to meet daily at 7:50am. However, based on the atmosphere presently in the district, this would be extremely difficult to accomplish as morale is at an all time lower low than it’s ever been.

John

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