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New York Schools’ Roberto Padilla faces sexual harassment allegations

A newly appointed school principal in New York City is facing allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation in the Hudson Valley, The Post has learned.

Mayor Eric Adams and his school’s chancellor, David Banks, on Monday appointed former Newburgh Superintendent Roberto Padilla as head of the South Bronx’s District 7.

According to court documents and school sources in Newburgh, Padilla has reached an agreement with the state school district to remain on the payroll for two years after his impeachment.

Orange County prosecutors said they would not press charges after an investigation into lack of evidence. However, Padilla is a named defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by two former female educators in the state Supreme Court last month.

“In the interest of transparency, I would like to know why Dr. Padilla resigned from Newburgh?” asked Mary, a community member, during the interview process for the Big Apple superintendent appearance. “Today’s newspaper said he was under investigation and I think our community deserves better.”

Roberto Padilla, who was appointed superintendent for the South Bronx's District 7 on Monday, resigned from his last job amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Roberto Padilla, who was appointed superintendent of the South Bronx’s District 7 on Monday, resigned from his last job amid allegations of sexual harassment.
News12 Hudson Valley

Former Newburgh elementary school principal Una Miller, 41, and high school English teacher Elizabeth Walsh, 36, accused Padilla of sexual harassment during a work trip to San Diego in August 2021.

Court documents described Padilla — a former New York City teacher and principal of West Prep Academy on the Upper West Side — at the conference as “the nightly events coordinator,” who planned boisterous dinners and bar nights.

On one of the nights, an apparently intoxicated Padilla wrapped his arm around Walsh, rubbed his knee against hers and touched her inappropriately, court documents said. He observed a couple across the couch from them, made distinct noises at their displays of affection, and hypothesized whether the man would be “lucky” that night, the filing says.

Later that evening, plaintiffs allege Padilla sat with Miller, ran his foot over her foot, and then kicked him to loosen her legs. As she backed away from his reach, she said he was smiling.

Walking to the bathroom, Miller said Padilla grabbed her wrist to pull her towards him so their bodies were touching. Miller yelled, “What the hell is going on,” the papers claim. Afterwards, Miller claimed that when Padilla tried to leave the bar, she said, “You can’t leave without hugging me.”

Walsh also accused Padilla of running his finger over a bird tattoo on her back when commenting on the character’s “big red ass.” The bird is dark gray, but Walsh said she wears red.

After a report was submitted to the district’s human resources department, the school principal was suspended and later given a resignation contract.

New York City School Chancellor David Banks (right) announced the names of 45 returning and new superintendents, including Padilla.
New York City School Chancellor David Banks (right) announced the names of 45 returning and new superintendents, including Padilla.
Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA

Sources from the Newburgh public schools pointed out to The Post the terms of the financial agreement, which will allow Padilla to continue collecting a salary of $279,000 through November 2023 — on top of what he earns for his new job in New York City is obtained.

A school district spokesman referred The Post to a statement released in January after the school board approved a settlement with Padilla.

“There have been thorough investigations into allegations of sexual harassment by two former female employees, which we have concluded on the basis of legal counsel, even if proven at a hearing, are not criminals,” the statement said . “Only such evidence would have given the board the opportunity to terminate the superintendent’s contract with no further financial obligations to him.”

The two women escalated complaints of inappropriate behavior into a workplace harassment and retaliation lawsuit this spring in a New York State Superior Court, naming Padilla, the Newburgh school district and the school board as defendants.

Court materials include an August 2021 email in which Louis Patack, a school board-appointed investigator, told Miller’s union representative that he had determined Padilla was “sexually harassing Una Miller in violation of New York State human rights law.” and may be in violation of district policy.

“We are shocked that the New York City Public Schools, Chancellor Banks and Mayor Adams have placed their trust in Roberto Padilla after his behavior has compelled us to file a lawsuit against him,” Miller and Walsh said in a joint statement. “We used to trust Padilla and our careers were derailed as a result.

They added: “The students, families and educators of the Bronx and District 7 deserve better than Padilla, who we have seen firsthand create a culture of fear and intimidation. We advise the city to re-evaluate this important decision.”

Ex-Newburgh Superintendent Roberto Padilla was sued by two former educators last month.
Ex-Newburgh Superintendent Roberto Padilla was sued by two former educators last month.
News12 Hudson Valley

Padilla was previously named New York Superintendent of the Year by the Council of School Superintendents. He has a PhD in Education with a focus on Urban School Leadership and helped found the New York Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.

“Any allegation of harassment should be heard and investigated thoroughly,” Nathaniel Styer, a spokesman for the DOE, said in a statement. “These allegations were investigated and Mr Padilla raised them directly with the community during the recruitment process.

“As the 2021 New York State Superintendent of the Year, we believe Mr. Padilla has a track record of success and based on community feedback will best serve Bronx students and families. We believe he has the best experience and is well positioned to lead District 7 responsibly,” Styer said.

Sources in Newburgh said Padilla is a board member of the organization that presented the award.

Padilla is also a friend of state education commissioner Betty Rosa, two sources said, adding that she wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for Padilla, which helped him land the Newburgh job in 2014.

Alex Berke, an employment attorney with Berke-Weiss Law representing Miller and Walsh, dismissed the idea that the allegations had been resolved.

“My clients were senior educators and leaders in their state. They have been pushed out of their jobs to the detriment of local educators and families,” Berke said.

“Now he has another job that involves this narrative that he clarified, but on what basis? My clients are shocked by this, but they are also deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of educators in the Bronx,” she added.

Several local educators in Newburgh said they backed Miller and Walsh’s claims on Tuesday.

“I believe both the women who have come forward and those who have not,” said Lisa Buon, a principal at a Newburgh primary school.

“He left behind a district that has failed children under his leadership for the past seven years,” she added. “You just have to look at the data, especially when it comes to the achievement levels of black and brown children. I feel sorry for the children of District 7.”

Others told the Post that the two women’s allegations point to a broader trend during Padilla’s tenure.

“Una Miller and Liz Walsh weren’t the first two women he molested in Newburgh,” said Rich Desiderio, the Newburgh girls’ basketball coach. “Drops in the ocean.”

A spokesman for the New York State Council of School Superintendents did not respond to a request for comment.

https://nypost.com/2022/06/28/new-south-bronx-schools-superintendent-roberto-padilla-faces-sexual-harassment-allegations/ New York Schools’ Roberto Padilla faces sexual harassment allegations

JACLYN DIAZ

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