In a presentation about leadership values and sportsmanship to athletes of Madison High School on Saturday, Joe Piro, who is the Athletic Director of Nutley High School in New Jersey and was a guest speaker juxtaposed photos of Martin Luther King Jr. and Adolf Hitler, describing the former Nazi leader as ‘good leader’ with ‘bad moral character and intentions,’ according to NorthJersey.com.
Facing condemnation for his statement by attendees, Piro, in a statement cited by NorthJersey.com, admitted making the presentation and apologized.
“My intention during my presentation on Saturday at Madison High School was not to offend anyone in or outside of the Madison Public School District and I am truly sorry if I did. My intentions during the presentation were to make a point that a leader could have strong leadership skills and influence people in a negative way,” he said.
“As a 20-year educator who has worked with a wide variety of students that come from very diverse and unique backgrounds, I fully understand and recognize that Adolf Hitler was an evil man who acted in a horrific manner,” he added.
“As I believe in learning from experience, I will remove the reference from any future presentations.”
Madison superintendent, Mark Schwarz, in a letter sent to parents on Sunday, also denounced Piro’s presentation though he did not mention him as the speaker at the event, NJ.com reported.
“During his commentary, the speaker contrasted Dr. King and Hitler, referring to the latter as a ‘good leader’ with ‘bad moral character and intentions,’” he wrote.
“It was unnecessarily provocative and insensitive for the speaker to include the image of a criminal whose legacy includes the systematic torture and slaughter of millions of Jews, the disabled, and others in Eastern Europe,” the letter continued.
“If the speaker intended to highlight an example of an effective leader with misguided intentions, a less emotionally-charged example would have been more effective and appropriate.”
Schwarz also confirmed any future presentation by an outside speaker will be reviewed by a school administrator before the speaker is allowed to address students.
The superintendent of the Nutley public schools, Dr. Julie Glazer, also released a statement claiming they were not aware of Piro’s presentation at the school and also apologized for the “insensitive reference,” according to NorthJersey.com.
“While the District was unaware of our Athletic Director’s participation in this leadership conference at Madison High School, we share his regret to mention Adolf Hitler alongside examples of positive leadership and over the inclusion of this insensitive reference.
“We sincerely apologize to the high school audience and the Madison community. The Nutley Public School District condemns all acts of bigotry, racism and hate. We believe in using this incident as an opportunity to highlight cultural responsiveness and sensitivity within our schools, curriculum and community,” the statement read.