In light of the arrest of Tuckahoe School Superintendent Dean Lucera last month on a felony count of criminal mischief, in connection with a domestic incident, one district resident this week publicly voiced his dissatisfaction with how the School Board has handled the matter.
At a meeting on Monday night, Phil Matthews told Tuckahoe’s three board members that he believes they “are prepared to dive on the grenade for their choice of leadership” by not immediately taking disciplinary action toward Mr. Lucera. The administrator, who started his position on October 19, was arrested by Southampton Town Police on November 21 on the criminal mischief count, as well as second-degree harassment, a violation.
Mr. Lucera took a voluntary leave of absence starting last week and is due back in Town Justice Court on the charges on Wednesday, December 23.
Mr. Matthews said he was disappointed with the board’s response to the arrest, explaining that he “eagerly awaited some form of leadership” after the incident. He said the leave of absence should have been the board’s choice, not that of Mr. Lucera, whom the district said took the leave to tend to his legal problems.
“I continue to read and hear the ongoing quote: ‘He is a good fit for Tuckahoe,’” Mr. Matthews read from a prepared statement. “What is that fit?”
He also asked if Mr. Lucera had been hired to help close the Tuckahoe School, whose financial situation has long been a source of concern to the district. And he asked exactly whom the School Board was representing, adding, “Why should the residential members of this community trust you?”
Mr. Lucera has said he is a proponent of consolidating services between the Tuckahoe and Southampton school districts, but Dr. Daniel Crough, chairman of the Tuckahoe School Board, said the superintendent was not hired with idea of closing the school in mind.
He also said Mr. Lucera was vetted more intensively than the average candidate during the selection process because he was the former district superintendent of the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the entity that helped the district with this summer’s search for a superintendent.
As for Mr. Matthews’s question about the community’s trust, Dr. Crough said, “I don’t know where to begin.” He continued: “Clearly, this is a difficult problem for a large group of people. It was unforeseeable.
“The response I’ve gotten from the community is, ‘We understand this is a difficult situation. Good luck, Dan,’” Dr. Crough continued. “We are doing our best. The man deserves his day in court.”
“I represent the kids and I represent you. Why don’t you trust me?” added board member Sean Hattrick. “As if I knew [the arrest] was going to happen.”