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  • Writer's pictureRev Joseph Taylor

Former Manchester Superintendent John Berenato Is Out! The Saga Continues

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

November 8, 2023

The articles outlining the many waves of abuse perpetrated by Superintendent Berenato against Principal Evelyn Swift were read by many; they outraged many, and justly so, calls for his dismissal rang out loud and clear by the Manchester, New Jersey community. A lot of attention was given to this story, and finally, victory was had after a long, drawn-out battle. On November 7, 2023, at approximately 7 P.M., Principal Evelyn Swift and the good people of Manchester obtained a partial victory at Manchester Middle School. John Berenato is out! According to the township attorney, Thomas Monahan, there will be no payout to Berenato, just a clean break from his racism, sexism, and ageism. The district appointed Diane Pedroza, the district's curriculum director, as interim superintendent.

It is a partial victory because it isn't complete. A lot of well-deserved attention has been leveled toward Berenato. Still, we must recognize his co-conspirators, Lori Burns, the director of early childhood development, and Bridget Antonucci, director of special services. According to the complaint that was filed in Ocean County Municipal Court, Burns, and Antonucci were intricately involved with the harassment of Evelyn Swift. Ms. Burns wrote an unprecedented negative mid-year review of Ms. Swift's performance. She wrote the review even before she reviewed the data that Ms. Swift submitted that should be used to make an informed assessment. Writing an assessment without the documents, the reviewee must submit is impossible. Principal Swift's negative evaluation was predetermined, and the plot to undermine Swift's proficiency and professionalism was in full force.

Burns engaged in several instances of discrimination and harassment that are further cited in the complaint against her, sheds light on the brazen disregard of protocol and decency. This disregard for viewing Ms. Swift as the capable professional that she has proven to be for 22 years speaks to Burns's awareness that she had the full support of Berenato. She was so bold that in a meeting to discuss Swift's attendance, she asked Swift, "Is something wrong with you?" As a director, Burns should be aware of HIPAA laws forbidding an employer to delve into an employee's health. Burns had no problem coming dangerously close to violating that law because she knew she had the full support of Berenato, who was in the room. Burns was encouraged by the support and latitude that Berenato gave her to macerate Ms. Swift's will and resolve to continue her employment as principal. Note Swift never abused her allotted time; the mention of her attendance was just another brick that Burns and Berenato were trying to put in the wall to vilify Ms. Swift.

Bridget Antonucci fabricated falsehoods on Ms. Swift's "end of year" review. She cited that there were issues with her 504 plans. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensures that students with disabilities are not discriminated against, particularly regarding accommodations. The 504 plans were submitted to Antonucci for approval, and she subsequently approved them. However, Antonucci let an entire school year pass, and in the unprecedented "end of year review," Antonucci said they were done incorrectly and used it as fodder to further paint Ms. Swift as incompetent. In her haste to unjustly discredit Ms. Swift's professionalism and competence, she created an "end-of-year review "for principals. Certainly, in Ms. Swift's 11-year tenure as principal, she was never given a negative "end-of-year review" because such a review never existed.

Antonucci was so blinded by the "mission" to render Evelyn Swift inept that she unknowingly swam in unchartered waters, much to her detriment. Due to the history of Ms. Antonucci and her collusion with Burns and Berenato to undo Ms. Swift, the question remains unanswered: were all the other principals even given this newly implemented review? Her zeal shone a bright light on her malicious attempt to malign Principal Swift. The complaint involved multiple attempts to scrutinize her for failing to do the work that she had done. She continued to hold Principal Swift to policies that did not exist. In short, Ms. Antonucci, like Lori Burns, was encouraged by the support given by Berenato to fabricate anything that would be instrumental in achieving the conspired goal, the removal of Ms. Swift. Principal Swift stood up for herself. On several occasions, Ms. Swift told Antonucci, Burns, and Berenato that she feels she's being discriminated against due to her age, race, and gender. These complaints fell on deaf ears, and the harassment continued. The Manchester Board of Education did the right thing and removed the culprit, spearheading the smear campaign against Principal Swift. There are two more conspirators that must be dealt with: Lori Burns and Bridget Antonucci.

The Echo applauds the good people of Manchester for standing with Principal Swift, for standing against racism, discrimination, and abuse, and for making Berenato, Burns, and Antonucci undoubtedly aware that their actions and behavior are not welcomed in Manchester. The community of Manchester Township is a shining light to the nation, and the Echo is proud to stand with them. The Echo is now calling on the Manchester Board of Education to finish what it began, root out this cancer entirely, and give the good people of Manchester what they deserve: a pristine Department of Education.

Thanks for reading!

"In Concern of the Negro since 1904"

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