By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City High School girls basketball coach Michael Cappelletti has been accused of mistreating his players. Parents and some of the players have attended recent Board of Education meetings to ask that he not be reappointed next season.
On Wednesday night, Board of Education members listened once again, as parents asked that he not be brought back for another season.
“I am here to support the Ocean City basketball players. We all know that three varsity girls came to this board seeking help and both times nothing has been done,” said Joe Monteleone, whose daughter played on the team.
Monteleone said the administration has done nothing to help the girls.
“I ask (you) to stop undermining these girls,” he said.
He described Cappelletti as coaching “like a bully” and “with harassment.”
“I respectfully ask, please do not renew his contract,” Monteleone said.
Throughout the last couple of months, Cappelletti has had the support of the Ocean City Education Association, the union representing teachers. Some of the members were present for Wednesday’s meeting. They did not speak, but stood together in the back of the meeting room.
Prior to public comment, Board of Education President Dr. Patrick Kane said a few words.
“I want to thank everyone for coming out to the meetings,” he said. “I want to acknowledge that, at times, there can be sensitive topics.”
Board of Education members said they are listening to both sides in this difficult situation.
“I want to acknowledge your bravery,” board member Jacqueline McAlister said to the speakers. “I want everyone to understand that we are taking this very seriously as community volunteers. The pain is not unheard, and we are doing the best we can for everyone involved.”
Ocean City resident Jill Adamson is the mother of three girls. Her oldest daughter played basketball and Cappelletti was her coach.
Adamson, who spoke publicly about her concerns at the board meeting last month, said she returned to continue to remind the board that he should not continue to coach.
“I stand here tonight to remind you that we are still here after several months, and we will remain committed to seeing that the best interests of the children are protected. Circumstances still remain hanging in the balance,” she said.
Adamson said she is certain others would come forward.
“I know there are more that would like to speak out, but fear retaliation,” she said.
She ended her remarks by saying, “We all have moments when we fail to live up to our principles. Humility is how quickly you recognize it, and integrity is how hard you work to rectify it.”
Adamson’s father, Dennis Mullen, a former longtime member of the Ocean City Board of Education, told the board that they need to act.
“I never put anything ahead of the kids,” Mullen said. “You are the guardians of the children in the town. If children are threatened, you need to rise up. Look into it. Investigate it.”
Like McAlister, Board of Education member Cecelia Gallelli-Keyes said the board is listening.
“This is very trying on me and, hopefully, I am speaking for everyone. Hopefully, there will be a peaceful conclusion,” Gallelli-Keyes said. “We are listening to both sides.”
Also during the meeting, the board appointed Dr. Wendy O’Neal as acting high school principal. The position was vacated by Mark Napoleon, a retired educator who was the interim principal since August. He took on the temporary role when Matt Jamison retired last year.
O’Neal was the assistant principal since 2015. That post will be filled by Gregory Donahue. Donahue was a principal in both the Intermediate and Primary schools.
In other matters, the board announced that the district is much closer to hiring a new schools superintendent.
For months, members of the Board of Education who make up the superintendent search committee have worked with Strategic Educational Advantage, or SEA, an outside contractor that was hired to help with the search. They have worked together to seek out the best candidate to fill the top post.
A new superintendent will fill the vacancy created by the retirement last year of former Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor. Dr. Tom Baruffi is the interim superintendent.
Interviews for the candidates began at the end of March.
The goal was to announce the new superintendent at Wednesday’s meeting.
But Dr. Kane explained that the board was “overly optimistic” that the contract for the new superintendent would be completed.
“It won’t be happening tonight,” he said. “I would expect a special meeting in a week or two so that we can move forward.”
He explained the process that led to the selection.
SEA developed a profile of what the district was looking for in a superintendent and it was made into an ad.
“We had a fantastic response. We had 50 applicants and we had three separate rounds of interviews going from 10 to five to three (candidates),” Dr. Kane said. “We have a candidate we think will be fantastic.”
Over the last year, to help determine what qualities were important to stakeholders, SEA held meetings with various groups of parents, teachers, students, union representatives and members of the community in recent months.
In addition, surveys were made available for anyone who wanted to provide input about what they find important for the person who will lead the district schools.