⚫ Ex-admin says school district had anti-Semetic plans

⚫ NJ mayor admits ‘guys in big hats and curls’ comments

⚫ Mayor accused of deflection, after extortion claim

LINDEN — City officials are embroiled in a legal battle, as a former Linden school administrator filed a whistleblower lawsuit for what he says were discriminatory hiring efforts to exclude Jewish school staff.

Former Assistant Superintendent Paul Oliveira filed his suit against the Linden Board of Education, Mayor Derek Armstead and others on May 23.

Union County

Armstead was accused of seeking to exclude Hasidic Jewish individuals from being hired by the school district, saying at one point: “That is what has to happen in order to keep our community from being taken over by guys with big hats and curls.”

On Thursday, Armstead admitted to making such a reference.

“The Mayor apologizes for comments referencing Hasidic Jews as ‘guys in big hats and curls,’ and remains staunchly committed to diversity and inclusivity in the community,” Armstead said in a statement on Thursday.

He said Oliveira had no evidence that any job applicants were ever turned down based on religious affiliation.

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Linden data (Google Maps, Census data)
(Google Maps, Census data)

'Ridiculous, inaccurate and defamatory'

Armstead then accused the ex-assistant superintendent of trying to extort $950,000 from the district before filing his lawsuit.

On Friday, Oliveira’s attorney, Armen McOmber, called Armstead’s written response “ridiculous, inaccurate and defamatory” and said such efforts to intimidate and silence Oliveira would fail.

“The mayor is a bigot and has absolutely no business leading any city anywhere: controlling the hiring practices of the Board of Education in order to keep Jews from ‘taking over the community,’”

“Instead of actual contrition and an attempt to understand and comply with anti-discrimination laws, the Mayor unfortunately attempts to deflect attention from his own misconduct by attacking Paul,” McOmber said.

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Linden (Google Maps)
Linden (Google Maps)

Armstead continued to deny Oliveira’s accusations about a directive to prioritize African American or Haitian applicants, allegedly excluding Hasidic Jewish candidates.

He said he did advocate for a workforce that reflects the diversity of the student body.

“Some of the 32.4% Black students in LPS are of Haitian descent and only speak Creole, creating the need for Creole-speaking teachers,” he added.

In his Thursday statement, Armstead took issue with Oliveira’s claim that he had to take protected medical leave due to stress and anxiety caused by the alleged hiring conspiracy.

In 2023, while still in Linden, Oliveira had an annual salary of $163,039, according to public records.

The mayor said that while on his medical leave from Linden, Oliveira secured a five-year job as chief administrator at a public charter school in Perth Amboy, where he was to earn a $190,000 salary.

By attending a “meet and greet” work event on April 29 at the Academy for Urban Leadership Charter School, Oliveira undermined his own claim of debilitating anxiety, Armstead said.

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