Kelly Mascio

Mullica Township kindergarten teacher Kelly Mascio, who was suspended after she found that two 5-year-olds had engaged in sexual play in a classroom bathroom, and promptly reported the incident.

MULLICA TOWNSHIP — An arbitration hearing date has been set for May 7 for suspended kindergarten teacher Kelly Mascio, said Mullica Township Education Association President Barbara Rheault.

“The arbitrator decided there was enough evidence to hear the case for potential disciplinary action,” Rheault said. The arbitrator could have dismissed the case, she said.

Under the state TEACHNJ tenure reform law, the arbitrator will have 45 days from completion of the hearing to issue a decision.

Rheault said the hearing may continue May 15 and May 16 if additional time is needed, and Rheault expects to be called to testify.

Mascio has been suspended since Sept. 30, after two of her students came out of an in-classroom bathroom together and said they had engaged in sexual play.

She reported the incident to a principal, but was immediately suspended with pay.

Vineland attorney Ned Rogovoy, who said about 40 percent of his work is representing teachers for the New Jersey Education Association, has said the arbitrator will have a range of options beyond the two extremes of either allowing Mascio to be fired or reinstating her with back pay for the suspension time.

The arbititrator could decide she should be disciplined to a lesser extent, such as by losing a pay increment raise, or by absorbing the loss of income from the suspension.

Rheault said it will be up to the arbitrator, who is assigned by the state commissioner of education, whether it will be conducted in Trenton, Mullica Township or another location.

Neither Board of Education attorney Will Donio nor Mascio’s attorney Michael Damm could be reached for comment Monday evening.

In January Superintendent Brenda Harring-Marro filed tenure charges against Mascio, alleging she failed to properly supervise her students. On Feb. 26 the Board of Education sent certified tenure charges against Mascio to the state, in a move to take away her tenure and fire her. At that point, Mascio’s pay stopped.

In response, Mascio supporters delivered a petition with more than 720 local signatures to the Board of Education at its March 19 meeting, asking the board not to renew Harring-Marro’s contract.

The teacher's supporters have sold 300 "We Support Kelly" yard signs and almost 200 T-shirts, and are holding a fundraising beef and beer and auction from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday 13 at JD's Pub & Grille in the Smithville section of Galloway Township. They hope to raise more than $15,000 to help Mascio pay bills while suspended without pay, Rheault said.

On March 5 the MTEA took a vote of no-confidence against Harring-Marro, with 93 percent of 107 teachers and staff voting no confidence in her ability to lead the district.

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