The principal at Maugham Elementary School in Tenafly and the teacher who assigned a project in which a fifth grader talked about the “accomplishments” of Hitler have been placed on administrative leave.

Principal Jennifer Ferrara, head of the school for eight years, and the teacher will remain on leave pending the conclusion of the investigation and whatever actions are recommended by the Board of Education.

Public records show Ferrara has been in the district since 2001 and earns a salary of $164,664. The teacher was not identified by Superintendent Shauna DeMarco.

The superintendent said in a letter that district policy about teaching “difficult and sensitive material” is supposed to involve parents, which was not followed in this case.

“Our initial review indicates that the curriculum and learning standards were not appropriately implemented and an attempt to individualize the project resulted in the student receiving misguided instruction from the teacher. The posting of the resulting project was offensive and inappropriate and directly violated the school board's policies,” DeMarco said.

While the "accomplishments" were displayed in a hallway, DeMarco said that some in the school expressed "concern" to Ferrara.

She said that policies only work when they are enforced and the investigation will seek to understand why they were not followed with this assignment.

"We value the feedback we have heard from parents, teachers, religious and cultural leaders, and many other concerned Tenafly residents," DeMarco said. "I hope this investigation demonstrates how seriously we take what has happened and our commitment to creating a safe and comfortable environment for our children to learn about the world."

DeMarco said the student and family have been "thrown into turmoil" and the incident caused pain for the Jewish community at a time when instances of anti-Semitism are on the rise.

Mayor Mark Zinna and several Jewish organizations defended the student in a joint statement released Thursday.

"We are confident that this family had no intention of harming or offending anyone and should not be blamed or held responsible for the events at the school," they said.

The Tenafly Board of Education has a meeting scheduled for Monday but the agenda was not posted as of early Friday afternoon.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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