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The Philadelphia Inquirer
September 25, 2013 Wednesday
PHILADELPHIA; P-com News Local; Pg. B01
|Karen Heller: Coatesville school leaders' ugly world
By Karen Heller; Inquirer Columnist
Ugliness takes many forms. In Coatesville, it took the form of toxic texts between the school superintendent and high school athletic director.
These are school leaders who should have known better but, consistently and recklessly, did not.
They resigned not because they believed they did wrong, but because they were caught.
In one missive, former athletic director Jim Donato used the n-word six times when once alone is unforgivable. He managed athletics in a school district where half the kids are minorities, where you would expect teaching respect and sensitivity to be part of the job.
Instead, he insulted students with vile labels.
The texts are a sewer of racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, anti-Arab, anti-Latino, and antigay slurs, poisoned with language children are taught not to use.
If there is a group former Superintendent Richard Como and Donato failed to offend, it wasn't for lack of trying.
The texts are also puerile, nasty, superior, profane, and profoundly stupid, laced with a reckless and consistent contempt for students, faculty, and staff.
In one June text, Como asked of two staffers: "Please tell me no f-ing way that ape banged that white piece?"
Please remember at all times that Como is 67, an educator for more than four decades, who was fluent in creating hateful, lurid, infantile, and snarky texts. Como was Coatesville superintendent for eight years, a principal - though perhaps not so principled - for a decade.
Apparently, this educator learned squat.
Enraged and hurt Coatesville residents called for Como and Donato to be fired instead of resigning, that that would send a message.
Alas, it will not send Como a financial one.
Under his contract, the former superintendent and super-texter is still eligible for a generous tax-sheltered annuity plan.
The texts do not read like those of educators, or even the teenage charges they were expected to teach, coach, and inspire.
They read like the texts of thugs.
The texts raise grave questions not only about Como's and Donato's lack of judgment but also their work ethic. Their texting regimen, saturated with Internet slang and emoticons, rivals that of teenagers.
On June 4, a school day, the BFFs exchanged dozens of texts, including one from Donato that included the n-word six times.
Como and Donato conferred on sports, clothing, and texted through the June 16 Miss USA pageant, assigning sexist, racist and anti-Latino epithets to the contestants.
Donato wrote: "I will even accept Burro Utah and UConn over n-!"
When an African American finalist was eliminated, Como noted "No spade at least."
The gut response might be to ignore such verbal swill.
That would be wrong. The texts should be read. At a time when little shocks, these are shocking, unacceptable. They should be circulated. They should be discussed in the Coatesville Area School District and beyond.
Usually, shame has no place in the classroom. No responsible teacher should ever shame a student.
But when a superintendent and high school athletic director abandon all notions of propriety, respect, and kindness, all bets are off.
Read these and weep.
September 25, 2013