MAPLEWOOD AND SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Former Columbia High School (CHS) baseball coach Joe Fischetti, who was dismissed from his CHS coaching post in 2016 for alleged bullying of some players, has been removed as head baseball coach at Newark Academy, according to a letter to parents at that school Thursday that stated he took part in “actions that were not consistent with the mission, vision and values of Newark Academy.”
The letter from Newark Academy Athletic Director Ted Gilbreath, stated:
Dear Newark Academy Baseball Families,
Based on new information received this week, varsity baseball coach Joe Fischetti and his staff have been dismissed from Newark Academy. 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. 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.
While the letter does not indicate what the “new information” is, it is believed to be the same information that the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education deemed “highly disturbing” when it voted to suspended Fischetti, Athletic Director Larry Busichio, and guidance counselor and former CHS assistant baseball coach Sam Maietta on August 20, a move announced to residents in a recent email.
While Fischetti and Maietta are no longer coaching at Columbia, both have remained as CHS staffers; Fischetti as a physical education teacher and Maietta as a counselor.
The suspensions and Fischetti’s firing from Newark Academy are believed to have been the result of what are being described as offensive text messages between the three found in evidence as part of a lawsuit filed by a former CHS baseball player against the school district.
The lawsuit, filed in 2016 by former player David DeFranco, alleges he was unfairly bullied and mistreated by several coaches, including Fischetti, Maietta. The lawsuit also contends that Busichio and several school administrators failed to properly respond to complaints that included the alleged use of profanity against him and retaliation for raising complaints of abuse.
More recently, however, text messages were found on cell phones of at least one of the defendants that were reviewed as part of the evidence and the discovery process for the lawsuit. It is unknown which of the defendants’ cell phones were related.
District officials have declined to identify who was suspended, but issued a statement this week noting that, “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.”
Several coaches have also informed players and parents of some teams that Busichio would not be in his position for at least part of the fall sports season, while an Aug. 27 note to CHS parents from the guidance department indicated that Maietta “is out on indefinite leave and his caseload is being covered by” another counselor.
The previous claims led to the hiring of an outside investigator in 2016 to look into the charges and the school board's decision to search for another coach for the 2017 season. DeFranco’s lawsuit has yet to go to trial, but the discovery phase is set to end in mid-September.
Fischetti and former assistant baseball coach Matthew Becht filed their own lawsuit in June 2017 against the South Orange Maplewood School District claiming they were wrongly terminated and not given proper reviews. That lawsuit also has yet to go to trial.