MASS. NON-EDUCATION? Rash of Lapsed/Unlicensed Mass. Educators – Part 1

Rash of Lapsed/Unlicensed Mass. Educators – Part 1

First a Superintendent, Then a Principal, Then the President of the Teacher’s Union, in Just One Town!


by Lonnie Brennan

On April 18, 2024, a Georgetown, Mass. resident filed a formal “personnel complaint against sixth-grade teacher Joe Pittella for educator license fraud.” In his complaint, he called upon the superintendent of schools to terminate Mr. Pittella, the long-time head of the Georgetown, Mass. Teachers Union.

Kevin Wood’s complaint was sent to Margaret Ferrick, superintendent of schools, and a copy was then forwarded to each member of the school committee. This complaint comes as a follow-up to a number of unlicensed teachers, administrators, and the prior superintendent, Carol Jacobs, who failed to maintain her license (widely reported and discussed throughout social media.)

By way of background, Kevin Wood is a 22-year resident of Georgetown with a son brought up through the public school system. Wood noted that “coming out of COVID restrictions, a significant number of problems were discovered about the Georgetown school committee and school administration.” He charged that the school committee’s equity committee maintained “zero records,” that a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultant was hired “with COVID grant monies who has ties to the Communist Party of America,” and that the administration “had not empaneled school councils for at least two years in violation of state law.” But that was just the beginning.

“Around November 19, 2022,” Wood shared, “I read that Special Education Director Jack Tiano was appointed principal of Perley School. This is a pre-k/kindergarten school. It had previously been administered by the elementary school principal. I thought this was odd and checked his education credentials. He is not a licensed principal. I then checked Carol Jacobs and discovered she had let her superintendent license lapse 15 months prior. DESE [the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] had her license listed as inactive/invalid. I then researched all the administrators in the school and discovered:

Superintendent Carol Jacobs – unlicensed

Director of Special Education Jack Tiano – unlicensed principal

Collin MacDonald, previous director of curriculum – unlicensed. Additionally – as an initial licensed principal at Penn Brook School, he did not have mentoring or supervision as required by statute for initial license holders. In other words, he never received the ‘on the job’ mentoring and training required by state law, yet he supervised all administrators and teachers at Penn Brook School.

Guy Prescott, assistant high school principal – unlicensed for FIVE years.

Recently appointed Curriculum Coordinators Amanda Girard and Kate Donlin – unlicensed

Later – I discovered multiple special education teachers – unlicensed…”

Wood further explained that he reached out to determine if the Department of Education commissioner had issued waivers from license requirements. Kevin says that no waivers were in place. Unsettled by what he was discovering, he submitted formal records requests for license data on several school department employees.

On December 14, 2022 Wood noted that he “called DESE and was connected with Brian Devine, director of licensure at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. I started by asking him about license waivers in general, if and how they are granted. He answered my questions and pointed me to some resources. I then asked him specifically about [Superintendent] Carol Jacobs. When I did that his attitude noticeably chilled, and he became very guarded. I asked him what his department’s position is on unlicensed educators where the statute states ‘Shall not be employed … if unlicensed…’ He wouldn’t answer.”

Wood noted that the following day, Jacobs renewed her license.

“I subsequently determined that Brian Devine called Jacobs immediately and allowed her to renew her license without determining if she had properly maintained her credentials,” Kevin explained. “As it turned out, she did not. It is required that the school committee chair review and approve her professional development plan and professional development points before her renewal. That did not happen.”

“An associate of mine contacted Quinton Dale at DESE. Quinton is the chief of investigations at DESE. Dale initially expressed interest in these issues and received the specific information we had. After a couple of weeks, he stopped responding. Further contact with Brian Devine was unproductive. Any response I received was clouded in bureaucratic jargon. I filed a formal complaint against Devine. As far as I know it went nowhere.”

“On January 27, 2023 I filed a record request with Jacobs as record access officer for the school district, and with the town clerk – record access officer for the town – seeking licensing professional development records for Jacobs, Tiano and MacDonald. Jacobs refused to provide any records claiming they were exempt personnel records. Jacobs was hoping to prevent me getting this information at least until after she retired on June 30, 2023. She almost made it.

Wood explained that he sent an appeal to the secretary of state supervisor of records several times and in April they conducted an in-camera review of the records provided by Jacobs. On April 18, 2023 they ordered Jacobs to provide those records.

“On June 15, 2023 I finally received the records examined in-camera by the supervisor of records. They were incomplete and did not contain Tiano’s or MacDonald’s professional development plans.

Wood then submitted a number of “pointed communications regarding these omissions” and on July 5, 2023 received what was claimed to be Tiano’s professional development plan and Mac Donald’s “goals” document. The document meta data determined that Tiano’s plan had been created on July 3, 2023.

“On July 5, 2023 I followed up with a new record request for professional development plans and points for a number of teachers. One of them was Joe Pittella. I received the response on July 28, 2023, which stated if a record was not provided – it does not exist. Pittella had no professional development plan and had accumulated only 40 out of 150 points towards his license renewal.”

“Mr. Pittella is a sixth-grade teacher who specialized in history. He is also the local teacher union president. He is vocal in teacher issues and recently complained he had been transferred from his long-time assignment. Upon investigation, I determined the reason he was transferred is because he does not have a subject matter educator license in history. This caused me to review his current license status,” Wood said.

“Mr. Pittella’s previous educator license cycle was May 30, 2019 to May 30, 2024. So, four years into that cycle he had accumulated less than one third of the required professional development points necessary to renew his license,” Wood noted. “He in fact renewed his license on January 16, 2024. When I became aware of that I made specific inquiry with DESE and was advised Mr. Pittella did renew his license electronically and that ‘in Section 2 of the application, you can see the questions that are asked. Online, if someone says they have not completed the requirements of renewal, they are unable to complete their application. If they say yes and have a completed application, we know they answered affirmatively to that question and claim to have satisfied the requirements of renewal. With the employment question, if they say they are employed in a public school in the Commonwealth, they have to indicate that their plan was approved by the supervisor, or their application will not move forward.’”

“Therefore, Mr. Pittella attested to the fact he complied with all requirements for license renewal,” Wood stated. “I then submitted a record request with the school district seeking Mr. Pittella’s professional development plan and points used to renew his license in January 2024. I was informed there is no professional development plan, that there are 105 points, and no supervisor approval. With this information I filed a formal complaint against Pittella with the school administration for license fraud.”

To help ensure proper oversight and avoid license issues in the future, Wood requested that Republican Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr file a bill Wood presented. The short bill would incentivize educators to take timely actions to maintain their licenses as failing to do so would prevent them from accruing service time towards retirement benefits, during periods of non-licensure. The bill would further encourage/empower the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education to, “at its discretion conduct audits of school districts to ensure proper licensure.”

“Unfortunately, lapsed and unlicensed teachers and administrators are not just limited to Georgetown, we have this issue throughout the North Shore I am told,” Wood said. “If a union president can go unlicensed until it’s pointed out, there’s a fundamental problem.”  ♦


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