The public portion of this week’s Board of Education where comments from the audience are accepted was the most action packed part of this meeting. This is where parents and students took the opportunity to voice their opinions on the alleged HIB incident involving varsity softball coach Nick DeGennaro which led to his contract not being renewed for the next school year. An anonymous letter was submitted from a parent that claimed DeGennaro had harassed their daughter by calling them explicit names and displaying inappropriate body language. A total of five parents spoke for the allotted three minutes per person and many of them were cut off midway through their written speeches. These speeches were all very similar in the sense that they addressed the character of Coach DeGennaro and made claims that he makes his players into great student athletes and always provides them with positive reinforcement that makes the girls into better people. Some parents conveyed opinions that the issue is more about the reputation of DeGennaro rather than his position as softball coach at this high school being stopped. One of these parents even compared the incident to the Salem Witch Trials, stating that in both there were false accusations that were taken too seriously. After the parents, five current high school students individually spoke their opinions. These girls were very emotional about the issue and claimed that their coach had always been their biggest supporter and consistently individualized the attention he gave to each of them. These students claimed that they even receive supportive texts from their coach that inspire them to always thrive and push through difficult times. Following these students, four students that previously graduated from the high school and now play softball at the collegiate level spoke. They claimed that DeGennaro was the best coach they had had in their careers and they still keep all the lessons he taught them with them today. The public comment section ended with board president Jill Van Ness stating that there are only 30 minutes allotted to public comments so they needed to move on. One parent asked if they could hear about the process of this issue and Van Ness responded that the board could not legally comment on personnel issues.
In other news, the superintendent gave his Good News Report which included focus on Cozy Lake School’s research projects in geometry, Milton School’s ‘Chick Day’ where eggs were newly hatched, JTMS’ ‘Wellness Week’ activities where DARE officers visited and gave presentations and JTHS’ acknowledgement for being one of the 2017 Best Communities for Music in the US.
There was high attendance at this specific meeting due to the presentations of Summa and Excelsior Award recipients. Dr. Plotts first recognized the 19 Summa award recipients who achieve a GPA of 4.0 or higher. These students were: Julia Ahart, Krista Becker, Shaun Bishop, Michael Brinck, Amir Choudhury, Melanie Feliciano, Zachary Homeijer, Kevin Hughes, Ashley Hutchinson, Stefan Knapik, Alexa Kolodzej, Jennifer Krakowski, Halle Music, Jordan Rock, Joshua Roskowsky, Olga Sokiran, Joanna Szpernoga, Samantha Tice and Tyler Wheelwright. The valedictorian and salutatorian for the class of 2017 were then recognized; Shaun Bishop as the valedictorian and Halle Music as the salutatorian. Dr. Cook next presented the Excelsior Award recipients from JTMS. These students were: Anthony Argondizzo, Anna Batelli, Druhi Bhargava, Rabha Bitat, Victoria Breeman, Isabella Caggiano, Skyler Christie, Gabrielle Ciesla, Meghan Craig, Brianna Cumberton, Anisah Daniel, Jeffrey Danyus, Leah Demko, Olivia Demko, Sierra Durham, Alexander Fenlon, Shayla Fisher, Allie Gesek, Arushi Ghayalod, Arunima Gupta, Jordan Herman, Matthew Holschuh, Vicky Huang, Archita Jayaram, Payton Kazatsky, Michael Keller, Kaitlyn Kimble, Ashley Kish, Giovanna LaMonica, Emily LaVacca, Lindsay Levine, Erin Mallory, Mehak Mantoo, Joshua Martorelli, Anjolie Mavani, Sarah Mustafaraj, Kailey Pasquariello, Jessica Pettit, Krista Poehlmann, Madison Poulas, Dalton Povilaitis, Rachael Prescott, Sophie Quail, Grace Reed, Emily Schmidt, Riju Sinha, Autumn Slack, Sabrina Somai, Lauren Sommers, Dylan Stefans, Michael Studnick, Aashi Tailor and Abigail Wolfe.
Presentations continued from members of the board and it was stated that when students within the district reach an unpaid balance of $50, they can be denied breakfast or lunch, which contributes to school lunch shaming prevalent throughout the nation. Other presentations included that the summer reading as well as the math assignments are currently being revised. Frank Cuccio spoke about a tick infestation in some of the schools which needs to be addressed and the JTEA will have a decision on a salary settlement following the vote on July 10th.
The meeting concluded with recognition of three retiring employees. Eileen Daggett is retiring from her position of director of special services after 11 years of service, Lisa Hopper is retiring from her position as a science teacher after 33 years of service and Shawn Kielty is retiring from his position of a physical education teacher after 30 years of service.