Ex-A. Harry Moore principal alleges wrongful firing after pushing for proper COVID-19 protocols

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A former A. Harry Moore principal is alleging a wrongful firing by New Jersey City University after he pushed for stricter COVID-19 protocols, a call that he says was ignored, prior to schools reopening last year, according to a lawsuit.

A. Harry Moore School in Jersey City. Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Steven Goldberg, the principal at the Jersey City special needs school since 2007, says he stopped receiving annual employment contracts after Sue Henderson became NJCU president in August 2012, his 43-page complaint filed in Hudson County Superior Court on August 11th says.

The lawsuit also notes that Henderson had announced in September 2019 that the A. Harry Moore school would close in 2020, though quickly walked back that decision after fierce public backlash.

“Throughout the 2019-2020 academic school year there was little to no direction and/or support provided to the School by Henderson and/or the University. Upon information and belief, Henderson never visited the School while in session for the entire 2019-2020 academic year,” the suit says.

“During this time, the vast majority of Plaintiff’s requests regarding School needs to the University were ignored. Even simple requests such as providing the installation of curtains in the changing room to ensure a child’s privacy and moving boxes and materials to facilitate the School move to and from Reginal [sic] Day School were ignored.”

Furthermore, the suit contends that NJCU denied A. Harry Moore necessary renovations and refused to implement COVID-19 safety measures, despite repeated requests from Goldberg – even after the Jersey City Board of Education voted to preserve the program.

“Upon information and belief, during this time Henderson sent an Email to all administrators that any assistance to the School must be ‘budget neutral’ meaning no cost to the University. Henderson’s refusal to authorize any budget for the School further establishes Defendants’ commitment to closing the School,” the court filing asserts.

Specifically, Goldberg says through the suit that he emailed Henderson, NCJU Chief of Staff Guillermo de Veyga, and then-adjunct professor Roger Harris on June 15th, 2020 expressing concerns that condensing five floors into two would make it nearly impossible to socially distance and take over pandemic-related precautions.

Two weeks later, he asked for a meeting to discuss lingering structural issues at the school and urge the implementation of COVID-19 safety guidelines to no avail, a trend that continued into August, the recently filed litigation says.

Additionally, Goldberg alleges he submitted a comprehensive reopening plan to his superiors on August 11th, 2020, which was followed by the school being denied a grief counselor after a student died on August 17th.

From there, he was denied an annual academic evaluation before being fired via a phone call on August 28th without any prior warning, despite no performance issues or any prior negative evaluations, the suit states.

Just three days later, Goldberg claims he received a separation agreement offer that was only good for eight calendar days, despite the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, as well as other related laws, requiring 21 days to consider the offer.

“By letter dated September 8, 2020, Plaintiff through legal counsel advised Henderson and Basile of their wrongful conduct, to no avail,” the suit says.

“By Tort and Contract Claim Notice dated September 30, 2020, Plaintiff through legal counsel notified the University of possible tort claims for liability against Defendants. The University did not respond.”

The 11-count lawsuit, which alleges violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, breach of contract, and aiding and abetting unlawful and retaliatory treatment.

As a result, Goldberg is seeking back pay, benefits and remuneration with interest, full compensation for front pay, benefits and other remuneration with interest, compensatory and consequential damages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, together with interest, costs of suit, attorneys’ fees and any other relief the court may deem just and equitable.

A spokesman for NJCU said on Saturday evening that they do not comment on personnel matters or pending litigation.