Chancellor David Banks has announced his 45 picks for school superintendent posts, including one who is being sued by a former principal and teacher who accused him of sexual harassment and retaliation.
Roberto Padilla, who is set to lead District 7 in the Bronx, left his position as superintendent in Newburgh in December, amid a flurry of press reports of alleged workplace misconduct.
New York City school officials were aware of the allegations ahead of Padilla’s selection, according to education department spokesman Nathaniel Steyer.
"Every claim of harassment should be thoroughly heard and investigated,” Steyer said Tuesday. "These claims were investigated and Mr. Padilla directly addressed them with the community during the hiring process.”
Padilla could not immediately be reached for comment by Gothamist. He has previously denied any wrongdoing.
In the lawsuit, filed in May, ex-Newburgh educators Una Miller and Elizabeth Walsh, a former principal and former teacher, respectively, accused Padilla of inappropriately touching them and making suggestive remarks while Padilla was intoxicated at a conference in San Diego from August 8th through August 11th.
We are shocked that the New York City public schools, Chancellor Banks and Mayor Adams are putting their trust in Roberto Padilla after his conduct compelled us to file a lawsuit against him.
According to the complaint, Padilla invited a group to a bar on the last night of the conference, where Walsh said Padilla rubbed his knee against hers and made “sexually explicit noises” and remarks about a another couple at the bar. When she was leaving, Walsh alleged, Padilla traced the outlines of a tattoo on her back with his finger, and made more inappropriate comments.
Miller alleged that same night, while sitting on a couch at the bar, an inebriated Padilla ran his foot over hers and kicked her crossed legs open, then, later, when Miller was walking by, grabbed her and pulled her close to him.
The plaintiffs alleged they were later constructively discharged, prompting the retaliation claim.
“We are shocked that the New York City public schools, Chancellor Banks and Mayor Adams are putting their trust in Roberto Padilla after his conduct compelled us to file a lawsuit against him,” Miller and Walsh said in a statement released following word of his appointment. “The students, families and educators of the Bronx and District 7 deserve better than Padilla, who we saw firsthand create a culture of fear and intimidation.”
As part of a negotiated settlement with the Orange County district, Padilla was set to receive pay through November 2023. A statement released as part of that agreement said an investigation found the allegations would not constitute a crime and “might not constitute sufficient grounds” to end his employment.
Steyer said Padilla, the 2021 New York state superintendent of the year, has a “track record of success and after community feedback he will best serve the students and families of the Bronx. We believe that he has the best experience and is well situated to responsibly lead District 7."
A fraught process
Superintendents are in charge of appointing and supervising principals, approving school budgets, and interfacing with parent leaders.
Padilla’s appointment comes as part of what has been a fraught process.
Earlier this year, Banks required all the superintendents to reapply for their jobs, but faced blowback from communities who said he had cut them out of the process.
The education department said 33 of the 45 superintendents retained their positions, including those who have moved between districts.
Padilla is replacing the former superintendent for District 7, Rafael Alvarez, who is being moved to District 15 in Brooklyn, where Anita Skop has been superintendent for 13 years.
Some parents and administrators in Brooklyn said they are devastated to see Skop go.
“This decision goes entirely against what our community wants,” District 15 Community Education Council President Camille Casaretti wrote in a letter to Banks and Deputy Chancellor of School Leadership Desmond K. Blackburn.
Casaretti said the council voted unanimously to endorse Skop, and community members wrote more than 3,000 letters in support. “We expect you to reverse this decision and allow Anita Skop to remain Superintendent of District 15,” the letter said.
Banks said Monday in a roundtable with reporters after the superintendent announcements that he has offered Skop a new role supporting principals across the city. “I think Anita Skop is a wonderful educator and has served District 15 for many years,” he said.
During Skop’s tenure, District 15 launched a plan to overhaul middle school admissions in order to boost integration – an initiative that resulted in some progress. There have also been some controversies, including the removal of a mural elementary students helped create with messages such as “Black Trans Lives Matter.” The decision to remove the mural roiled the community.
Banks indicated there could be some additional change ahead for the district, but did not elaborate. “We're gonna move in a slightly different direction moving forward with District 15,” he said.
In other parts of the city, residents welcomed the announcement of the superintendent selections. In Queens, parents said they were deeply relieved to see longtime superintendent Philip Composto would be maintaining his post at the helm of District 30.
“He is really truly about what is best for all children,” said Becca Staley, who serves on the PTA Presidents Council in Composto’s district. She added that she was disappointed the community “had to fight to be included” in the process.
Earlier this spring, parents and local legislators said they were outraged to learn Composto was not a finalist for continuing in the role he’s held for 14 years. Following protests, the administration decided to revamp the superintendent hiring process, allowing all current superintendents to move on to the next round, including attending a town hall with parents.
“The reason I did that was because I was being responsive to what I was hearing,” Banks said. “I think what we have done today in the selection of the superintendents was very reflective of a comprehensive process of real community engagement.”
Banks has said he wants to streamline the school system’s bureaucracy: he eliminated the position of executive superintendent, a level of bureaucracy above superintendents, and is expanding superintendents’ responsibilities. He said they will be tasked with ensuring services for students with disabilities and multilingual learners as well as those in need of counseling or transportation. “I want a one stop shop for parents,” he said.
Banks urged parents to have faith in his selections.
“I think there may be some people [who] may be a little upset if they didn't get necessarily the choice that they were looking for, but I'm asking people to trust also in my leadership and my ability to pick good people,” he said.
Superintendent appointments announced by the Board of Education:
- Community Superintendent, District 1
- Community Superintendent, District 2
- Community Superintendent, District 3
- Community Superintendent, District 4
Kristy De La Cruz
- Community Superintendent, District 5
- Community Superintendent, District 6
- Community Superintendent, District 7
- Community Superintendent, District 8
- Community Superintendent, District 9
- Community Superintendent, District 10
- Community Superintendent, District 11
- Community Superintendent, District 12
- Community Superintendent, District 13
Robin Davson (acting)
- Community Superintendent, District 14
David Cintron (acting)
- Community Superintendent, District 15
- Community Superintendent, District 16
- Community Superintendent, District 17
- Community Superintendent, District 18
- Community Superintendent, District 19
- Community Superintendent, District 20
- Community Superintendent, District 21
- Community Superintendent, District 22
- Community Superintendent, District 23
- Community Superintendent, District 24
- Community Superintendent, District 25
- Community Superintendent, District 26
- Community Superintendent, District 27
- Community Superintendent, District 28
- Community Superintendent, District 29
- Community Superintendent, District 30
- Community Superintendent, District 31
- Community Superintendent, District 32
- Superintendent, District 75 Citywide Programs
- Superintendent, District 79
Glenda Esperance (acting)
- High School Superintendent, Manhattan HS Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Gary Beidleman (acting)
- High School Superintendent, Bronx HS Districts 7, 9 and 12
- High School Superintendent, Bronx HS Districts 8, 10 and 11
- High School Superintendent, Brooklyn North HS Districts 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 23, and 32
- High School Superintendent, Brooklyn South Districts 17, 18, 20, 21, and 22
- High School Superintendent, Queens North Districts 24, 25, 26, 30
- High School Superintendent, Queens South Districts 27, 28, 29
- High School Superintendent, Consortium, International and Outward Bound
- High School Superintendent, CUNY and Urban Assembly
- High School Superintendent, New Visions
- High School Superintendent, Transfer Schools