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Board hears support for teacher put on leave


CHATHAM–The high school library was packed for Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, with parents, students and Chatham alumni speaking out in support of music teacher Mark Giordano. Mr. Giordano was placed on paid administrative leave in February for what he was told was “inappropriate behavior.”

The board has yet to announce its decision on whether it will reinstate Mr. Giordano or pursue disciplinary actions. There are no criminal charges involved.

Before the public comment period at the August 24 meeting, board President John Wapner read a statement saying that the board and Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo could not talk about the situation with Mr. Giordano. But he said that if allegations are provided to the district, school officials fully investigate them. He said that if the allegations “meet the standards of credibility governed by education law,” the board follows a specified process for dealing with the employee named in the allegations. He told the crowd that the board would make no comment or respond in any way to the audience.

Mr. Giordano’s wife, Mary, was first to speak saying that her husband was questioned by representatives at BOCES/Questar III about incidents during which he allegedly said to a female student that he wished the student were older so they could go out for a drink. His wife said the case also involved statements that he had touched a female co-worker on the shoulder and had played “the sticky note game” with a fellow musician in the pit orchestra during the high school musical. She said the “sticky note games” was something musicians do and involved Mr. Giordano exchanging notes with another adult musician and, in one case, asking the fellow musician out to dinner and a glass of wine.

“None of this is making any sense,” she said of the questions her husband was asked by investigators. She claimed that schools Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo told Mr. Giordano that the board had approved her asking for his resignation on June 7.

Other parents faulted Ms. Nuciforo and guidance staff questioning what the parents said was the questioning of students about Mr. Giordano’s behavior without the parents being present.

The board listened but did not comment on the case. But after an over an hour of comments in support of Mr. Giordano, Ms. Nuciforo did say that if the board moves ahead with charges against Mr. Giordano, allegations would only be made public after a state panel has met and penalties have been assigned.

She also said that they would only go ahead with charges when school is in session, and there is not a time line for how long the process would take if the board does file charges.

When audience members asked if they planned to dismiss the charges and take Mr. Giordano off administrative leave and back in the classroom, Dr. Wapner said, “It’s not on the agenda. I don’t intend to put it on the agenda.”

Audience members talked about what a dedicated teacher Mr. Giordano has been over his 20 years at Chatham, the cost to taxpayers of keeping a teacher on leave and the disruption to the school community. “I just would ask you to be careful that you have all the facts,” said one parent in the audience.

The board went on with its regularly scheduled meeting and discussed strategic plans and board goals.

The next school board meeting will be Tuesday September 14 at 6:30pm in the high school library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com.



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