MAPLEWOOD, NJ — In the wake of South Orange-Maplewood School District suspending Columbia High School Athletic Director Larry Busichio, Newark Academy has fired its head baseball coach, Joe Fischetti, who was the CHS head baseball coach until 2017. Fischetti, among other CHS baseball coaching staff members, were not rehired as coaches for the spring 2017 baseball season among lawsuits and allegations claiming that he and his staff had bullied certain players.
At its meeting Monday, Aug. 20, the SOMA Board of Education voted to suspend five staffers — none of whom were named in the meeting’s agenda. According to the district in its Aug. 27 statement, Busichio’s suspension — one of the five — directly resulted from the ongoing investigation of the CHS baseball program. School district spokeswoman Suzanne Turner did not identify the other four staff members suspended, telling the News-Record that the district cannot comment on personnel matters. A source with inside knowledge of the school district, however, confirmed to the News-Record that two of the staff members suspended are Fischetti and Sam Maietta; both Fischetti and Maietta were CHS baseball coaches and, though they no longer coach, still retain staff positions at CHS, Fischetti as a physical education teacher and Maietta as a counselor.
Back in summer 2014, CHS baseball parent Randy Nathan filed a harassment, intimidation and bullying complaint against the team’s coaches. The complaint was bolstered by former player David DeFranco, who also filed suit against the coaches for bullying. Since 2014, the mess has continued, with accusations coming from parents, students and former coaches who say the matter was not handled properly.
According to the district, it was recently presented with “highly disturbing information” regarding the alleged bullying on the baseball team, leading to the suspension of Busichio, who declined to comment on the matter to the News-Record.
“As many in our community are aware, concerns were raised during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years about our high school baseball program,” a recent statement from SOMSD read. “During the course of a lawsuit now pending against the district, the board was recently presented with highly disturbing information about the management of the program during those seasons which prompted swift and aggressive action on our part to assure a positive and wholesome experience for our student-athletes.”
In addition to being suspended from CHS, Fischetti was fired from his head baseball coach position at Newark Academy in Livingston. Fischetti declined to comment to the News-Record.
While Turner declined to comment on what — if any — information SOMSD has shared with Newark Academy regarding Fischetti, it appears that the information leading to the suspension of Busichio, Fischetti and Maietta also led Newark Academy to fire Fischetti.
“Based on new information received this week, varsity baseball coach Joe Fischetti and his staff have been dismissed from Newark Academy,” Newark Academy Athletic Director Ted Gilbreath wrote in a letter to that school’s baseball families. “The information, which pertains to Coach Fischetti’s work prior to his arrival at Newark Academy is confidential and part of ongoing legal processes. While we are not able to share with you the specifics of the information, it does indicate actions that were not consistent with the mission, vision and values of Newark Academy. The decision to dismiss Coach Fischetti is based on this information and is not based, in any way, on his performance and conduct during the one year that he served as NA varsity baseball coach.
“We are tremendously disappointed for our student-athletes on our baseball team,” Gilbreath continued. “We know that they will be disappointed and likely frustrated at this turn of events. However, this decision is not made lightly and is grounded in the long-term best interest of our students and the baseball program. A search for a new varsity baseball coach will begin next month and we will keep you apprised of the progress of that search throughout the process.”