ATLANTIC CITY -- The teacher who lost his job after breaking up a fight between two students will get his job back.
The school board rescinded physical education teacher Phillip Eisenstein’s termination at its meeting Monday night. All six board members attending voted to reinstate Eisenstein.
The resolution stated that the decision comes with conditions, which were not outlined at the meeting. Interim Superintendent Paul Spaventa said he would meet with Eisenstein and his union representative to go over the conditions.
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Atlantic City Education Association President Marcia Genova said she wanted to set up a meeting as soon as possible.
“I’m ready to go back,” said Eisenstein, who had a room full of supporters at the meeting. He said he was relieved at the decision.
“This was very stressful, mentally and physically,” he said.
Eisenstein was fired for allegedly using excessive force after he broke up a fight in October between two students in his class at the New York Avenue School, then dragged the student who assaulted the other student to the school office.
He was initially suspended with pay. An investigation by the state Department of Children and Families Institutional Abuse Unit determined he had not used excessive force, but the school board, acting on the recommendation of interim Superintendent Paul Spaventa, terminated Eisenstein in February.
Eisenstein appealed the decision in March.
A standing-room-only crowd turned out Monday night to support Eistenstein, though at first it appeared that the board would not have a quorum to vote with only five members of 10 present.
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Eventually seven members arrived, with Nynell Langford, Kirk Dooley and Ed Cooper absent. Board members Ruth Byard, Michael Harvey, John Devlin, Shay Steele, Walter Johnson and Allen Thomas voted to reinstate Eisenstein. Ventnor representative Kim Bassford abstained because she can only vote on issues involving the high school.
Before the board went into executive session to deliberate, several audience members spoke on Eisenstein’s behalf.
Wayne Reider, an ACHS graduate and former teacher there, said he knows the conditions in the city schools, and it can be difficult to get some students under control in a fight.
“He is a young, very good teacher,” Reider said. “Reinstate him.”
Retired teacher Bernard Reynolds said Eistenstein’s grandfather, former Atlantic City schools Superintendent Jack Eisenstein, had hired him and he watched Phillip grow up.
“He wanted to come back here to teach and coach,” Reynolds said. He referenced the recent incident in Wilmington, Delaware, where a girl died after she was beaten in school, and said the girl’s father had asked where the security was.
“Phil was there that day in October to protect another kid,” Reynolds said. “You should commend this man. Parents want teachers like Phil. Don’t tarnish this man’s career. Give him his job back.”
Bill Lacovara said firing Eisenstein sends the wrong message to the public.
“If a bully can beat up a kid and the teacher who gets involved loses his job, that is not the message we want to send,” he said.