Manchester Regional board grants principal tenure against teachers' wishes. Here's why

·3 min read

HALEDON — The Manchester Regional school board has granted tenure to the high school's principal of four years, over objections by students and the teachers' union, which declared a vote of "no confidence" in his ability to lead.

Trustees also heard from former employees on Thursday night who said they felt compelled to retire early, or leave the school for a different job, because of undue stress caused by Principal John Coviello.

Michael Yob, a former technology teacher who left the high school last year, told trustees at their meeting that he "did not feel happy" at work. He is now on staff at a magnet high school in Bergen County.

Jayme Sage Hedges, a language arts teacher at Manchester Regional High School in Haledon, speaks on behalf of the union at a Board of Education meeting on May 12.
Jayme Sage Hedges, a language arts teacher at Manchester Regional High School in Haledon, speaks on behalf of the union at a Board of Education meeting on May 12.

"It rested solely on the shoulders of Mr. Coviello," said Yob, who called in to the meeting from a remote location.

"I love Manchester — I love the opportunities that Manchester gave me," he said. "I was told by my parents that I should never burn bridges, but what if the bridge is already on fire?"

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After comments by at least 15 people, including some who spoke highly of Coviello, the Board of Education recessed the meeting for a closed session and returned about a half-hour later to take action.

The school board unanimously passed a resolution that will grant tenure to Coviello, as of July. He receives an annual salary of $142,874, but that figure will be adjusted for the next school year.

Trustees did not reply to comments about Coviello. School Superintendent Gary Lubisco Jr. offered a statement in which he said his recommendation for his tenure was based, in part, on the way Coviello helped to lead during the COVID-19 pandemic. He implemented and managed the building's contact-tracing protocol, he said.

"As we all know," Lubisco said, "it's a really, really challenging job."

Coviello, who was hired in April 2018 to succeed Richard Ney, previously held roles in the Fort Lee, New Milford and Ridgefield school districts.

In a statement given to The Record and NorthJersey.com, Coviello said he is "devoted to the continued ideal of Manchester growing, adapting and overcoming any challenge."

Principal John Coviello, of Manchester Regional High School in Haledon.
Principal John Coviello, of Manchester Regional High School in Haledon.

"I'll continue to listen, partner and do everything in my power to give everyone the best high school experience in the county and state," he added. "And we'll do it together."

James Hornby, co-president of the Manchester Regional Education Association, had told trustees that teachers' "morale is low" and turnover is at an all-time high. In the past four years, he said, 37 employees left the high school — 17 with tenure.

"Through his actions," said Hornby, who teaches math, the principal has "violated the intent and spirit of our contract, state law and governing documents of the Board of Education. This has led to a toxic and unsustainable school culture."

Multiple public officials said they valued Coviello's leadership. Letters of support were received by Police Chiefs Angelo Daniele, of Haledon, and Ammen Matari, of Prospect Park.

Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: devencentis@northjersey.com

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Manchester Regional principal gets tenure despite 'no confidence' vote