Randolph slur scandal furor erupts
A local civil rights advocate is vowing to launch a signature drive to remove Maureen Kenney from office unless she resigns from the school committee and the board of selectmen by Tuesday for alleged anti-Semitic comments.
“We have a school system that’s in crisis and we can’t afford to have divisive people on this board,” David Harris, president of the Randolph Fair Practices Committee and a former school committee member, said Thursday. “Nothing will heal this town unless this person resigns, effective immediately.”
The school committee has launched an investigation into what Kenney allegedly said to School Superintendent Richard Silverman during contract negotiations on Oct. 23. Responding to Silverman’s request for up to five days of paid leave after the death of a close family member, Kenney said she thought it was excessive and unnecessary.
“It is not the standard in industry,” Kenney said, according to Silverman. “Besides, don’t you Jews plant them within 24 hours?”
In a two-page letter Silverman wrote complaining about Kenney’s comments, he also quoted her as saying: “I don’t see any side curls on your head, so what the hell do you need five days of bereavement leave for?”
Side curls are traditionally worn by male Hasidic Jews.
As calls for Kenney’s resignation continue to mount, the only other person in the room when the remarks were allegedly made appealed to the community for calm.
“The journey for justice is a long one,” school committee member Tamara Pitts said. Pitts and Kenney met with Silverman to negotiate a contract extension.
Pitts has not commented publicly on the accuracy of the quotes in the Silverman letter. She has said she wants to wait until the independent investigation is completed, saying Kenney has a right to due process.
“Ms. Kenney, Dr. Silverman and everyone in this community has rights,” Pitts said. “Every minute this takes is painful to me.
Silverman has said he “objected to (Kenney’s) comment about my religion and ethnicity.”
Silverman wrote the letter on Oct. 26 and sent it to committee members, the school system’s attorney and the attorney for the state school superintendents association.
A copy was mailed to The Patriot Ledger in a plain envelope with no return address.
Kenney has remained silent on whether the quotes are accurate.
Her only comment was telling a reporter on Wednesday, “I will have a comment for you, but not tonight.”
She did not attend Thursday night’s school committee meeting or one on Tuesday night.
School committee Chairman Larry Azer announced plans for the investigation at the start of the committee’s regular meeting Thursday.
“The committee is concerned about the manner in which this very sensitive issue was made public,” he said. “Accordingly, no further comment will be made by the school committee until our investigation is complete.”
Azer said the investigation would begin this morning; he said he did not know long it would take.
“When the investigation is completed, we’ll report back to you,” he said.
Silverman attended Thursday night’s school committee meeting but did not comment on the matter.
In a closed meeting following the public session, the school committee decided to expand and change the membership of its negotiating committee for the superintendent’s contract.
Kenney will be replaced by Azer, committee members Paul Meoni and Marybeth Nearen and a school attorney.
Asked if replacing Kenney on the negotiating committee was the committee’s decision or Kenney’s, Azer replied, “Both.”
“This shows we’re united as a group to resolve this as quickly as possible,” he said.
Under the town’s bylaws, about 4,000 signatures would be required to put a recall question on a ballot. Getting a recall question on a ballot before the annual election in April appears unlikely.l
On Wednesday, the regional chapter of the Anti-Defamation League called for Kenney’s resignation, as did residents at Thursday night’s school committee meeting.
Arnold Rosenthal called the remarks attributed to Kenney “a disgrace” and called for her to resign.
“I don’t think this town needs anyone to create any more ill will,” Rosenthal said.
Fred Hanson may be reached at email@example.com.