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Thursday, May 30, 2024

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Former Upper Superintendent Gets $300K to Leave

SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT MICHELE BARBIERI 
Shay Roddy

SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT MICHELE BARBIERI 

By Shay Roddy

PETERSBURG – Former Superintendent Vincent Palmieri will be paid more than $300,000, spread over two years, after resigning from the Upper Township School District, an agreement with the school board revealed. 

Palmieri’s severance payout is equivalent to almost two years’ salary. He will be paid his salary from last year, $176,083, again in 2023 and will make $135,000 in 2024, according to a heavily redacted copy of the separation agreement, which was obtained by the Herald through a public records request. He will not perform any services for the district during the next two years. 

Palmieri’s five-year contract, which he entered into with the board in 2018, was to expire at the end of June. Instead, he is out in the middle of the school year and has agreed with the board to confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses.

The agreement reveals some details of the superintendent’s departure, which did not come cheap for the district. However, many details remain hidden in the copy of the agreement released to the Herald by blocks of black ink. 

 

In the document, signed by both Palmieri and Board President Michelle Barbieri, the parties mutually agree “not to make, publicly or privately, through any media or medium (including, without limitation, comments on social networking sites and social media), any defamatory, disparaging, or derogatory remarks or otherwise make statements that could injure the business or reputation of any of the Parties to this Agreement.” 

The two sides are forbidden from talking about the terms, or even the existence, of the agreement. 

“The Parties shall only respond that the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all those concerned,” the agreement states. 

Five full sections were redacted and more than four of the document’s eight pages were blacked out. 

In a letter sent with the documents from Laurie Ryan, the district’s records custodian, the Herald was told the redactions were made pursuant to a statute that protects personnel and pension records from public availability. The statute states legally exempted information includes “any grievance filed by or against an individual.” 

In a follow-up phone call, Ryan said the redactions were made by the board’s attorney, Brett Gorman. Gorman did not immediately respond to a call requesting further explanation of the legal basis for making the redactions. 

Another letter, sent from Ryan to the Herald, stated “the separation agreement has been produced after appropriate redactions to confidential personnel information were made.”  

The letter cites a case recently decided in the New Jersey Supreme Court – Libertarians for Transparent Government v. Cumberland County – which, according to the letter from the district, “determined that section 10 of OPRA calls for disclosure of a settlement agreement that contains ‘an individual’s name, title, position, salary, payroll record, length of service, date of separation and the reason therefor, and the amount and type of any pension received.’” The district’s position is that the redacted portion of the agreement is “confidential personnel information.” 

Palmieri was replaced by the board, effective at the beginning of 2023, with Christopher Kobik, who will serve through the end of the school year in an interim role.  

A Nov. 22, 2022, letter to parents, cosigned by Palmieri and Barbieri, stated the superintendent and the board agreed it was the “best thing for the district” for Palmieri to leave, effective Jan. 1. 

A letter from Palmieri, dated Nov. 21, 2022, and addressed to the Upper Township Board of Education, which was obtained by the Herald, stated he was announcing his voluntary and irrevocable intent to resign, effective Dec. 31, 2024, and subject to the terms of the separation agreement. 

In a separate clause, the board makes clear that this situation is “predicated exclusively upon the unique and individual circumstances of this matter” and the agreement should not set any precedent for the future. 

To contact the reporter, Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com or call 609-886-8600, ext. 142.

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