In 2011, many New Paltz residents were calling for a crossing guard near the New Paltz Middle School, and local government officials were all claiming that their hands were tied and that they were unable to provide one. Into that maelstrom stepped Mary Ann Tozzi, who simply showed up one day after school and began stopping traffic to let the kids cross North Manheim Boulevard. The rogue crossing guard was soon stopped by police, but not long after that she was offered the job for real, after the school district and town worked out a deal wherein crossing guards would be hired as independent contractors by the town police, who would perform background checks, provide training and oversight, with the actual pay for the two-hour-a-day job being reimbursed by the New Paltz Central School District.
Tozzi started the job in controversy, and ended it the same way. For months, if not years, Tozzi has complained loudly about the number of people who make an illegal left turn onto North Manheim from the school parking lot. She was unable to take down license plate numbers, but started taking pictures of repeat offenders. This week, after New Paltz police pulled over someone for that act, Tozzi alleged on social media that perpetrator was a middle school teacher who had been breaking that same law about twice a week for quite some time. She posted the teacher’s name on Facebook, and the same day police chief Joseph Snyder told her that her services were no longer required.
Calls to middle school principal Dr. Richard Wiesenthal were referred to superintendent Maria Rice, and calls to her office were referred back to Snyder, with district staffers explaining that the school district does not make decisions about the employment of crossing guards. Nevertheless, a posting for a crossing guard position was put on the district’s website, and Snyder confirmed that it was the school district’s decision.
“Mary Ann has been a great asset,” Snyder said. “We appreciate her service, she really got the ball rolling” for establishing a crossing guard, he said.
While Snyder would not comment on the specifics, Tozzi said that when she was terminated, Snyder had a faxed copy of her social media posting on his desk, and claims she was told that Dr. Wiesenthal requested she be removed from the position.