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NEN Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics put on second administrative leave in one year


by Chrissy Ruggeri | Mon, Mar 27 2023

Members of the United Teachers of Northport (UTN) at an April 2022 board of education meeting, where teachers and staff from the district showed up in solidarity in light of allegations against the district’s athletic director that have yet to be made public.

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A conflict among the United Teachers of Northport (UTN) and the school district’s athletic director, Mark Dantuono, continues one year after at least 100 members of the union gathered at an April 2022 board of education meeting in a display of solidarity in light of, sources at the time said, allegations against Dantuono that have yet to be made public.

UTN President Stacey Weisberg told the Journal immediately after the April 2022 meeting that the group came out to support colleagues in the physical education and health departments, as well as district coaches. While no specific details were shared, hushed claims of harassment and other allegations circulated the BOE meeting that night.

One month prior to the meeting, the Journal obtained a letter sent to all UTN members reiterating the district’s “Whistleblower Policy.” The letter offered an explanation of the protections afforded to UTN members in the event they “chose to issue a statement, be interviewed, or file a complaint against a supervisor employed by the Northport-East Northport UFSD.”

“Our goal in this process has always been to protect our members and end the continued harassment, bullying and union busting attempts,” the letter stated. “As this process unfolds, the more people that come forward with the facts, the more credibility the facts will have and will force the Board of Education to take drastic and strong actions to effectuate the changes needed to eliminate these unwarranted acts.” It also implied a “pattern of behavior” that had been documented.

The whistleblower letter was sent shortly after Dantuono’s candidacy for tenure was approved, in June 2021. Minutes from the June 17 BOE meeting show the motion to approve the AD’s tenure, along with that of other district educators, passed unanimously.

In the last year, Dantuono has been placed on administrative leave twice and faced an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), brought forth by the UTN and with testimony from several district teachers.

From August to November 2022, former Smithtown School District Athletic Director Patrick Smith was hired as interim director for $750 per work day. Dantuono returned to work in November, until placed on another administrative leave in mid-February after allegedly violating the conditions of his return by evaluating a teacher without another district employee present, according to sources familiar with the incident.

Last week, the school board met in executive session to hire John Piropato as interim director at a pay of $700 per work day, which was communicated to district parents in a letter sent March 21. No information was provided aside from Piropato’s background with a similar role for the Massapequa School District.

During his previous and current administrative leave, Dantuono continues to be paid his yearly salary of $194,000. The PERB decision regarding the UTN’s original charges against Dantuono is expected soon.

When the Journal asked the district for additional information on the issue, communications specialist Nicole Kavanagh replied, “We cannot comment further on personnel matters. As shared in the email from Mr. Banzer earlier this week, Mr. John Piropato is currently serving in an interim role overseeing the athletic, physical education and health departments.” UTN President Stacey Weisberg has not responded to questions from the Journal.