More than a month after the South Orange – Maplewood School District hired an independent investigator to examine allegations of bullying against Columbia High School baseball coaches — a process Supt. Dr. John Ramos said would take several weeks — the investigator has not yet interviewed the families involved and the case remains open.
“As far as I know, the investigation is not complete,” said a district spokeswoman Thursday. “The Board will receive an update at their April meeting. If there is any impact on the baseball program, then of course we would inform the families and community of any changes being made.”
At the February 22 Board of Education meeting, Ramos said that his recommendation to reappoint the varsity boys’ baseball coaches for the 2016 season was “qualified by the fact that the investigation into HIB allegations is continuing” and that an investigator would “thoroughly pursue all open-ended cases and…file a report to the Superintendent of Schools within the next 2-4 weeks.”
On February 26, the district retained Dr. LeRoy Seitz, interim superintendent of the Parsippany-Troy Hills (P-TH) school district, to investigate the allegations because the district said it did not have the capacity to complete the work itself. Seitz was hired at a rate of $125 per hour, not to exceed $5,000.
Seitz previously worked at P-TH when SOMSD District Counsel Phil Stern — who as the Anti-Bullying Coordinator led the prior investigations into the HIB accusations in the baseball program — was employed there; however, a district spokeswoman said Seitz’s hiring presents no conflict of interest.
“Phil Stern did not recommend or recruit Dr. Seitz,” the spokeswoman said. “The fact that someone knows Mr. Stern or has interacted with him in the past would not present a conflict of interest since Mr. Stern is not the subject of the investigation. Mr. Stern has been in school law for years and worked in numerous capacities throughout the State. Anyone the BOE would hire for this type of assignment, if they have been active in school law in New Jersey for any period of time, would have had some interaction with Mr. Stern.”
Neither Randy Nathan, whose son was involved in several of the HIB allegations against the district, nor the family of David DeFranco, who brought a lawsuit against the district, had been contacted by Seitz as of Thursday, Nathan told The Village Green.