James H. Vernon School principal leaves suddenly

No information available on sudden departure, Anastasia Smith serving as acting principal


Jessica Bader, the recently appointed principal for James H. Vernon School in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District, "will be away from the building for some time," according to a statement sent out to parents by Superintendent of Schools Francesco Ianni on Thursday. The reason for her departure was not explained, nor was whether "out of the building" meant that she had been fired or placed on administrative leave.

The Herald's attempts to reach Bader were unsuccessful. 

The Nesconset, New York resident had been hired to the district last year as the director for humanities K-12, and had been chosen to serve as the principal for Vernon earlier this summer. Anastasia Smith, the assistant principal at Vernon, will be serving as principal for the indefinite future.

Ianni was contacted last Friday but said he was unable to discuss Bader's departure. 

"The only thing I can say is that I unfortunately can't discuss any personnel matters," Ianni said. "It's one of those things that I can't comment on, but what I can comment on is how well our students are doing, and how well they are adjusting to the new school year."

Laurie Kowalsky, president of the district’s school board, also stated that she “can’t comment on employee issues.”

Bader, 51, had previously worked as an assistant principal at George J. Ryan Middle School 216 in Manhattan for nine years. She had also worked as a fifth grade teacher at P.S. 175 City Island, a K-8 public school in the Bronx.

One of Bader’s former students, Erin Neeson, recalled having her as teacher at P.S. 175 back in 1997. Although Neeson had not spoken with Bader for decades, she remembered her fondly as a teacher.

“She was a great teacher; she was very involved with the students,” Neeson said. “She used to help kids with the talent shows and stuff. She was one of the greatest teachers we ever had.”

Below is the statement that Ianni released Thursday to parents announcing Bader’s departure from Vernon School:

“Dear James H. Vernon School Families:

I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I am writing to notify you that Jessica Bader, principal of the James H. Vernon School, will be away from the building for some time. My main priority is to alleviate any concerns that you may have regarding the day-to-day operation of the James H. Vernon School and to reassure you that ALL students will continue to learn in the most educationally sound and safe environment.

It is during times like these that we must come together as a learning community to make sure that our students have the necessary tools to be successful. We are very fortunate to have an administrative team that cares about your children. I am pleased to share that effective immediately, Ms. Anastasia Smith, the current assistant principal of James H. Vernon will be serving as acting principal while Ms. Bader is out of the building. Ms. Smith will also have the strong support of the entire central office team in conjunction with my direct supervision and presence in the building.

The in-depth knowledge that our administrative team has of the student body and the operation of the school building will ensure a safe and educationally sound environment. We are confident that together we will continue to empower ALL students to achieve excellence at the James H. Vernon School.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at (516) 624–6505 or email me at FIanni@obenschools.org.

Francesco Ianni, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools”

Ianni also released a followup email to parents on Friday, reiterating the fact that he was unable to discuss personnel matters but assuring community members that he had been at Vernon School throughout the day to ensure a smooth transition. It read:

“Dear Vernon Families:

Today I was fortunate to spend my day at Vernon to ensure the day went smoothly. I spent time rotating between classes and saw our amazing students and staff in action! Despite the cancelation of today’s sixth grade trip due to the rain, all students had a productive day learning in the building. As a note to our sixth-grade parents, we are working to reschedule this event and will provide further information shortly.

I am very fortunate to be part of a community that is so supportive and to spend time in a building surrounded by such an amazing group of students and staff. I understand that the notification sent home yesterday regarding building leadership was concerning to some members of our school community. Although I am unable to share personnel matters, I would like to reassure you that I will be in the building every day to support the students, along with the Assistant Principal, Ms. Smith.

I am confident that with the support of the staff and the community, our students will continue to achieve excellence at the James H. Vernon School.

Thank you for your understanding and support and accept my best wishes for a wonderful weekend ahead.

Francesco Ianni, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools”