Three parents and their children gathered in the front of the Riverhead School District’s administration office Wednesday afternoon to protest the firing of Riley Avenue Elementary School teacher Jutta Mariotti.
As Baiting Hollow parent Terri Nirrengarten raised a yellow poster that read, “This is unfair and unwarranted!,” a few drivers honked and waved as she chanted: “Don’t fire Mariotti!”
Ms. Nirrengarten’s daughter, Mikayla, 8, is in Ms. Mariotti’s second-grade class and said: “Shame on you!” to an administrator exiting the building.
Mikayla said she believes Ms. Mariotti is a good teacher because she gives each student individual attention.
“She’s a great teacher,” Mikayla said. “She helped me a lot.”
Wading River parent Pamela Duffy and her son, Joseph, who’s in Ms. Mariotti’s class, also attended the protest. Ms. Duffy said she hopes the district reconsiders its decision.
“Mrs. Mariotti went above and beyond,” she said. “She even taught my son songs in German. He has very fond memories of second grade because of her.”
Aquebogue parent Yolanda Thompson said she came to the protest with her daughter, Brianna, 8, because Ms. Mariotti was also beloved at her daughter’s school in Aquebogue when she taught there. Ms. Thompson said she believes Ms. Mariotti has been treated unfairly.
“The teachers’ union was at the Riverhead Charter School protest, but isn’t supporting one of their own,” Ms. Thompson said, referring to the how members of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, the bargaining unit representing the district’s teachers, attended a protest at the Calverton charter school earlier this month to show support for teachers who have been fired from the school.
RCFA president Lisa Goulding and Superintendent Nancy Carney weren’t immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Ms. Mariotti, a German immigrant who’s worked in the district since 2006, was featured in a News-Review cover story on June 5 after the school board approved Ms. Carney’s recommendation to deny her tenure.
Ms. Mariotti has claimed the school’s administration told her last July this would be her last year teaching in the district and that she wouldn’t receive tenure because the “best” teachers were available since many were laid off during the recession and are still looking for work.
During a May 13 Riverhead school board meeting, Ms. Nirrengarten asked why parents in Ms. Mariotti’s class hadn’t been notified when a second-grader brought a knife into her classroom last November and wanted the board to reconsider firing her. The board later voted in favor of terminating Ms. Mariotti’s employment, which goes into effect June 30.
Ms. Nirrengarten has said she believes Ms. Mariotti should be “commended” for how she handled the knife incident as opposed to being fired.
When asked for comment Wednesday about the protest, Ms. Mariotti said in a phone interview she appreciates parents’ support.
“I’m really happy,” she said. “I’m at peace. I did my job to the end.”