South Orange-Maplewood School District Superintendent Dr. John Ramos will present recommendations to the Board of Education Monday, following the completion of a report by an independent investigator on bullying complaints in the Columbia High School baseball program.
“We received the HIB report and recommendations from [the investigator],” said district spokeswoman Suzanne Turner earlier this week. The next step, Turner said, is for Ramos to “deliver recommendations to the BOE regarding the baseball related HIB complaints at the next BOE meeting” on Monday, July 18. The Board will take action on Ramos’s recommendations at its next meeting on August 22.
In February, the board voted to reappoint the coaches involved in the investigation, with some members visibly struggling with their decisions. (The board voted 6-3 to reappoint Varsity Head Coach Joseph Fischetti and Asst. Coach Matthew Becht, with Elizabeth Baker, Johanna Wright and Chris Sabin dissenting. JV Assistant Coach Sam Maietta was unanimously rehired, while Freshman Coach Stephen Campos was reappointed 5-4, with Madhu Pai, Annemarie Maini, Baker and Maureen Jones dissenting.)
Prior to the February vote, Ramos said his recommendation to retain the 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… .”
On February 26, the district retained Dr. Leroy Seitz 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.
The investigation was initially supposed to take one month, but was repeatedly delayed.
Parent Randy Nathan, whose son was involved in several of the HIB allegations against the district, told Village Green that he and his son were each interviewed by Seitz; however, Nathan said that former player David DeFranco, who brought a lawsuit against the district, was not interviewed by Seitz.
The Village Green made several attempts to reach DeFranco’s attorney, Jeffrey Youngman, to confirm that his client had not been interviewed, but has not received a response.
“Seitz came across as someone willing to take the time to listen,” Nathan said. He was “pleasantly surprised by his candor” and demeanor.
Meanwhile, Nathan filed a petition in April with the New Jersey Department of Education against the Board of Education, alleging the Board did not properly follow the HIB law.