(CNN) A candidate for superintendent of a Massachusetts school district says his contract was terminated after he used the word “ladies” in an email — and another candidate was sidelined after controversial Facebook posts about women’s sports had emerged.
Vito Perrone tells CNN that he emailed two women, including a committee member, asking for three contract changes, using the word “ladies” to address them, which he described as “microaggression” and felt “disrespectful.”
He was then told that the Easthampton school district was withdrawing his offer, he says.
“I said I apologize if I offended anyone with my term ‘ladies,'” he said, adding he’s always believed “ladies and gentlemen were an expression of respect.”
Cynthia Kwiecinski, one of the two women who received the email, said in a statement that there were “too many concerns before we even started negotiating the rest of the contract.
“The alarm bells were ringing,” she said.
In the statement, she said she was “offended by the familiarity with which the candidate approached me” and the executive assistant to the committee on salary negotiations.
Perrone denied that negotiations had taken place.
“It was just inquiries,” he told CNN, in part because of an increase in the cost of living in later years and adjustments to free time.
“If we had had the opportunity to negotiate, maybe we could have gotten over it,” he said. “People talk about a teachable moment in the classroom. Could that have been a teachable moment?”
Perrone was “disturbed,” he says. Landing a job in the county would be like “coming home” for him, having worked at one of the county’s schools for six years.
“The fact that I might not be able to work there now is heartbreaking,” he said. “It was very difficult to hear because I said ‘ladies’ in an email,” he added, wanting to set the record straight because he didn’t want the community to think it was about money or a failed negotiation .
Perrone has garnered support from some residents, with supporters gathering outside the school with signs of support, CNN affiliate Western Mass News reported.
CNN has reached out to the school and Kwiecinski for comment.
Suzanne Colby, the other person referenced in the email, has since said on social media: “I’m a lady. I appreciate being labeled as such and I appreciate being treated as such. To me, the word means respect.”
Colby is listed by Easthampton Public Schools as an Assistant to the Executive and School Committee.
“I’m not offended by the word,” she continued. “However, I am respectful of those who may be offended by the word or term. Those of you who know me know how important it is for me to be respectful of each individual.”
Another candidate is withdrawing his application, the newspaper reports
After the board withdrew Perrone’s offer, its members switched to another candidate.
However, the Easthampton mayor’s office then received concerns about the nomination of that candidate from a member of the high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club, according to an email exchange released by the mayor’s office as part of a disclosure request by the Daily Hampshire Gazette was provided.
Contributions by this candidate, Erica Faginski-Stark, have been repeatedly called “conservative transphobic rhetoric,” according to the email from the student whose name was redacted.
According to a copy of the Facebook posts provided by the student, on Jan. 23, 2021, Faginski-Stark posted a link to a video with the following comment: “It’s time for EVERY female athlete out there to speak up. As a former Div. 1 Scholar and Academic & Athlete ALL American, our young women were robbed of their equality and opportunity yesterday.”
It’s unclear what she’s referring to — but President Joe Biden had days earlier issued an executive order to prevent and combat discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, which said in part, “Children should be able to learn without worrying.” whether they are denied access to the toilet, changing room or school sports.”
In March of this year, a post from the account bearing her name advocates signing a petition in defense of Title IX, adding, “Ladies, the glass ceiling is more real now than it has been in generations,” the post’s screenshot states. “Our choice to use our voice or remain silent will determine not only the future of women’s athletics, but equality for women everywhere. It’s time to speak up,” the post reads, according to copies provided as part of the Open Records request.
The Facebook page cannot be displayed and appears to have been removed.
In the email, the unnamed student said: “In light of the recent anti-trans picket line, many young people at the school are concerned and angry.”
Faginski-Stark then withdrew her application. CNN contacted her for comment.
Meanwhile, the school continues to search for a superintendent. The search is expected to be discussed at a school board hearing on April 25.
CNN’s Zenebou Sylla contributed to this report.