NBC10 - Katy Zachry
A meeting is planned to decide the fate of Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Richard Como and Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato who exchanged N-word-laden text messages. NBC10's Katy Zachry reports.
Racially charged text messages are behind the recent resignations of two Philadelphia-area school administrators, district officials say.
A 100-page transcript provided by sources reveal a series of N-word-laden text messages were exchanged between Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Richard Como and Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato. The messages were written and received on district-issued cell phones.
The messages, first reported by The Daily Local of West Chester on Sunday and obtained by NBC10 Philadelphia on Monday, were uncovered by a district IT employee before the start of the school year, according to officials. That employee brought it to the attention of the school board on August 18, prompting Como and Donato to later resign. Chester County prosecutors eventually launched a criminal investigation.
"All should just have whatever first names they want...then last name is N-----! Leroy N-----, Preacher N-----, Night train n-----, Clarence n-----, Latoya n-----, Thelma n----- and so on," read one message sent from Donato’s phone on the night of June 4.
"Great idea! Joe n----- bill n----- snake n----- got a nice ring to it," Como replied.
“hahahahahahahahahahahaha could have whole homerooms of N-----,” came another message from Como’s phone.
“hahahahahahahahaha! Will N----- report to office, pardon the interruption but will N----- report to nurses office. N----- to lunch now!” Donato said.
The Coatesville Area School District confirmed late Monday the two men left their posts after the school board began the legal process to terminate them over the texts.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said once he learned about the racist messages, he asked the district to turn over copies of the conversations and the phones used. A request to which the district complied.
"The texts that we have reviewed are appalling," Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said Monday. "They look like something from the 1800s, not 2013."
DA Hogan would not elaborate on any additional details about the case citing the on-going investigation.
NBC10 made multiple attempts to speak with Como and Donato by phone and in-person, but at the time of publication, have been unable to make contact.
Como, a longtime and well-liked administrator, shocked the school community when he abruptly resigned from his post in the beginning of the school year on August 29. Donato left his job the same day. Coatesville is a predominately black community and both Como and Donato are white.
More than a week later, on September 10, school board officials said the two left their posts amid a criminal investigation by the county prosecutor. Officials, however, would not comment further, citing the investigation.
School board member and Coatesville Area NAACP Chapter President Dr. Tonya Thames Taylor was the first official to learn about the text messages on August 18. Officials say she immediately notified other board members and that an investigation was launched.
Following the initial report, Dr. Taylor posted a message on her website explaining her involvement in the situation.
"Despite this newspaper reporting, I am still bound by a legal responsibility to protect the school district from any liability that could be caused by any statements that I make which could be misconstrued," she wrote. "I cannot comment about any matters that involve district personnel, which are confidential matters. Also, I cannot comment on any matters that are associated with an ongoing criminal investigation."
The resignations of both Como and Donato are pending approval from the school board, which is scheduled to vote at their next meeting on Tuesday evening.
“The racist and sexist language expressed by the two men was sickening and obviously unacceptable. The Board followed state and federal laws and moved as expeditiously as possible while simultaneously cooperating with the District Attorney,” Board President Neil Campbell said in a statement Monday.
District officials say they will now provide mandatory sensitivity training to all staff, faculty and administrators in light of the text messages.
Como and Donato have not been paid since their resignations, but will be allowed to collect their pensions unless they are convicted of a crime, officials said.
Furious over the messages, residents protested outside the district's headquarters on Monday. One man held a sign reading "Como worse than KKK!"
"They shouldn't even be in the school and they shouldn't be able to get a job no other place teaching anybody," said another resident Willie Woods.
Beyond the racism, the text messages also included discussions on money, normally reserved for on the record public meetings.
"Gonna give them til Aug 1st to raise coin still want district to give at least 40k on top," wrote Donato in one of the texts.
Some critics say the school board did not respond forcefully enough when they found out about the texts.
"I believe they could've acted quicker," said Stuart Deets, a school board candidate. "I believe they could've opened an investigation immediately."
The school district's lawyer disputes this however, claiming he was already reviewing the matter when Hogan took the case over.
Tuesday's school board meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m.